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 look back at an arcade legend, eat the rich, get weird with Udo Kier, realize how wonderfully transgressive Nightmare on Elm Street 2 really was, and come-of-age in West Baltimore.

Insert Coin

Director Joshua Tsui has a documentary that is now on my must-see list.

The oral history of a team of geeks and misfits in the back of a Chicago factory creating the biggest video games (Mortal Kombat, NBA JAM, and others) of all time.

Eugene Jarvis, the creator of 80s classic videogames such as Defender and Robotron, returns to the industry in the 90s. In the process, he assembles a team that pioneers the concept of bringing live-action into videogames, kickstarting a new era in the arcades.

The technology mushrooms into massive hits such as Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam and soon the team begins to conquer the world. What began as a small tight-knit group begins to deal with success and eventually the rise of home consumer technology.

This is not a slight on the material, but this is a breezy doc. It’s not like we’re talking about the ascendancy of Nintendo, or how Blizzard came to be a dominant force in gaming, we’re talking about NBA Jam. Which, for all intents and purposes, I’m down with exploring. It’s always entertaining to see how great minds turned a passion into a business that needs repeat customers to survive. In terms of video gaming, Midway was one of the greats.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street

Directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen are exploring one of the lesser spoken about sequels.

When A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE was released in 1985, it wasn’t long before people noticed something was just a little different. The sequel’s premise of a teenage boy named Jesse (Mark Patton) becoming possessed by Freddy was a departure from the slasher tropes embraced by the original.

However, it was the film’s homoerotic shower scene, foray into a gay leather bar, and Patton’s positioning as a screen queen that raised more than a few eyebrows, and became the main point of discussion when talking about the film for years to come. Amid backlash and finger-pointing about his sexuality’s impact on the film, and the fear of homosexuals and AIDS permeating the culture in the mid-’80s, Mark Patton left Hollywood. Now, more than three decades later, he wants to set the record straight.

SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is a special kind of eye-opening documentary, inviting fans not only to delight in the batshit uniqueness of NOES2, but also asking them to reckon with what it means for the film to exist in the first place.

I mean, what else do you need to know if for that thorough explanation above? The trailer elegantly acts like a primer for the discussion around what this documentary will explore. Looking back at the time they released it, understanding what kind of content was and was not permissible in the polite company of moviegoers, and how this movie affected its star is fascinating. Yes, the trailer came out last year but this is the first I’ve heard of it and, also, since it’s getting a release next week, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Charm City Kings

This yarn by director Angel Manuel Soto is based on the fabulous documentary, 12 O’Clock Boys.

Mouse desperately wants to join The Midnight Clique, the infamous Baltimore dirt bike riders who rule the summertime streets. When Midnight’s leader, Blax, takes 14-year-old Mouse under his wing, Mouse soon finds himself torn between the straight-and-narrow and a road filled with fast money and violence.

This trailer has charm for miles and looks like the kind of under-the-radar movie that could use some extra attention. As coming-of-age movies go, this one at least looks like it has some oomph behind the personal and societal narratives it’s going to delve into. I’m won over by the absolute crispness of this trailer’s pacing, editing and, most importantly, how raw it feels. You can just feel the humidity of the summer coming through the screen and I’m here for it all.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Director Justin Pemberton is here to bum us all out.

Based on the international bestseller by rock-star economist Thomas Piketty (which sold over three million copies worldwide and landed Piketty on Time’s list of most influential people), this captivating documentary is an eye-opening journey through wealth and power, a film that breaks the popular assumption that the accumulation of capital runs hand in hand with social progress, and shines a new light on today’s growing inequalities. Traveling through time, the film assembles accessible pop-culture references coupled with interviews of some of the world’s most influential experts delivering an insightful and empowering journey through the past and into our future.

I love these kinds of documentaries if for no other reason than to keep reminding us of the inequities in life. Sure, some of that can be overcome but, many times, there are things that we have no control over and will have no control over. The trailer wonderfully weaves its narrative with talking heads who help to keep things interesting and keeps this from being an economics lecture.

Bacurau

I’m not going to lie here, I have no idea what directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles are doing but I’m all in.

A few years from now… Bacurau, a small village in the Brazilian sertão, mourns the loss of its matriarch, Carmelita, who lived to be 94. Days later, its inhabitants (among them Sônia Braga) notice that their village has literally vanished from most maps and a UFO-shaped drone starts flying overhead. There are forces that want to expel them from their homes, and soon, in a genre-bending twist, a band of armed mercenaries led by Udo Kier arrive in town picking off the inhabitants one by one. A fierce confrontation takes place when the townspeople turn the tables on the villainous outsiders, banding together by any means necessary to protect and maintain their remote community.

I’m enamored by the freshness of its presentation. There’s originality in how it’s presenting its story, its characters, its moments, that tickle that part of your brain that just wants something new. It might be strange or off-putting but, I would argue, it’s exactly what makes this movie look great. The trailer gives you a narrative head start but if there was one trailer that nails how you entice someone on a journey, this would be it.

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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