Saturday, March 3, 2012

Trailers! Trailers! The Vintage Edition

The new trailer for "The Avengers" was released yesterday. Being on spoiler watch, I'm avoiding it. Trailers of the last few years have gotten too spoiler-filled and too pandering for my liking, especially the ones trying to capture as much of the general audience as possible. I do love movie trailers though, and putting one together is an art. So, to distract myself from the temptation of peeking at the trailers for this summer's blockbusters, I'm taking a look back instead, at older trailers. Here are a couple of my favorites. Links lead to Youtube and Trailer Addict:

The undisputed grand master of the trailer game was Stanley Kubrick, who always knew how to put together a provocative first look at his films. Here's the trailer for Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. You still see the editing style referenced and parodied to his day, most recently in an FRS commercial with Lance Armstrong. And then there's the iconic one for The Shining. In usual Kubrick fashion, it was shot countless times to satisfy the director's notorious perfectionism, and the rumor is he only got the finished product past the censors by claiming that the tidal wave of blood wasn't really blood, but rusty water.

It's difficult to nail down who edited the trailers for many recent films. Sometimes the directors do it themselves, but more and more often it's people in marketing departments who had nothing to do with the production of the actual film. So, I'm honestly not sure who gets the credit for this gorgeous The Curious Case of Benjamin Button teaser, that turned out to be better than the movie it was promoting. Or this one for Where the Wild Things Are, which makes the Maurice Sendak imagery hit the nostalgia buttons like a ton of bricks. Or these stylish introductions to the title character of Milk and the comic book noir universe of Sin City . Or the heralding of the imminent arrival of The 4th Film By Quentin Tarantino. Or how the intriguing new Prometheus trailer pays homage to the one for Alien.

Occasionally, trailers go high concept. Here's one for Citizen Kane, which includes fictional interview snippets about the film's fictional subject, Charles Foster Kane. Here's the long form promo for Psycho, where Alfred Hitchcock takes the audience on a tour of the set, making the occasional droll insinuation. More recently, here's the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's documentary Comedian, with veteran voice-over artist Hal Douglas in a recording booth, reading off a long list of overused trailer narration phrases, starting with "In a world..." to the frustration of an anonymous director. And then there's Austin Powers in Goldmember, which had little people acting out a scene from the first "Austin Powers" movie. Oh, and who could forget the fake trailers from "Grindhouse," two of which have gone on to become real movies?

For a while, the PIXAR teaser trailers were something to look forward to. Some were pretty much stand-alone shorts, giving a brief introduction to new characters and concepts. Here's our first look at Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc, and here's Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles, struggling to get into costume. I'm a little sad that they've moved away from this approach for their later films, but some of the other studios have picked up the torch. The teasers with the little yellow minions from Despicable Me were a lot of fun, even if I could never remember which movie they were promoting. And now they've started up again for Despicable Me 2, over sixteen months before the film actually comes out in July, 2013. I think that may set the record for the longest gap between a movie's teaser and its release date.

So what's my favorite trailer of them all? It's a pretty obscure one. Way, way back when I was first watching trailers online, I came across the gorgeous, disturbing trailer for Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. It does a magnificent job of introducing the film's themes and conflicts without pigeonholing it as a drug memoir. The tone is set immediately by a quote from the film's source material by Hubert Selby Jr., eschewing all other narration or captions for intimate dialogue and glimpses of Arnofsky's tour-de-force visuals. Melancholy, dreamlike memories transition into a hallucinatory nightmare of the characters' addictions. Ironically, despite "Lux Aeterna" from "Requiem" featuring in so many subsequent movie trailers and commercials, it doesn't appear in the "Requiem" trailer itself. Instead, "Everloving," by Moby does the job.

I'm sure there are plenty I've missed here. Send suggestions if you've got them. And happy watching.

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