Tag: trailer

“Some thought required” or, The difference between a trailer and a movie

 

Advertising is legalized lying – H. G. Wells

The trailer for the film adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came out earlier this week. The book on which the film is based is one of my favorite books of all time, and the prospect of translating the book to film is an interesting one. The book can be melodramatic and quirky, two words that strike fear into the hearts of many “serious” moviegoers. The people that know a lot about movies and have strong opinions on how they should and should not work. The people that write and read film blogs. The people that turn their nose up at the Oscars and watch them seemingly only to criticize how misguided they are. These people watched the trailer and instantly decided that the film was made to win Oscars and can therefore not be any good. But that’s probably the dumbest thing you can do when it comes to art.

The A.V. Club’s little write-up on the trailer hits all of the critical points here. The director has been nominated for Oscars before, the screenwriter has won an Oscar, and both of the big name stars have won an Oscar. And then they outline the plot in it’s most basic terms, son loses father, finds key, looks for lock. They mention how the WWII subplot seemingly exists to hit that Oscar demographic, building on the 9/11 plotline. And yes, all of these things have won Oscars in some way before, except for 9/11 which only has United 93’s two nominations to it’s pedigree, though we’ll have to excuse that for the relatively short distance between the event and today. If you want to call the film out for having people write and direct and star in it I guess I can’t stop you.

But none of this addresses the actual trailer. And here’s the thing, the trailer isn’t great. It, like the A.V. Club article, only hits the big notes and throws some quirk in there for good measure. It shows none of the WWII plot. It doesn’t show the bulk of the film other than in some quick montage in the middle. It’s really all setup. What it does show is a lot of Tom Hanks, who plays the father that dies on 9/11. A good bit of Hank’s performance is likely captured in this trailer. There’s only a scene or two that isn’t captured here in some way. The trailer plays him up, though, because he’s a big star. And that’s ok, because the one thing we must remember as intelligent filmgoers is that trailers exist to sell the film to the widest group possible. They’re usually not created by the filmmakers and they often use scenes that don’t even end up in the final film. Trailers are not movies, they’re advertisement. They distort the real product into a quick, easily digestible chunk that rarely delves into anything beyond a broad theme or story outline. There are exceptions, of course, Magnolia’s trailer, below, was cut by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also filmed shots specifically for the trailer. But the majority of movie trailers are handled by outside companies that get footage and assemble it into the most basic commercial they can.

When I was a kid I watched a lot of TV, cartoons and the like. All of the commercials were for toys, and most of those commercials came with disclaimers that said, “Real cooking time 10-12 minutes” or, “Some assembly required.” I think movie trailers should take a clue from these toy commercials and start running a little text at the bottom, warning the people watching that these 2 minutes are not necessarily indicative of the full 2 hour experience. And then they can have that guy come on at the end and say things like “Some thought required” to warn us that movies aren’t and shouldn’t be so quickly analyzed and dismissed. Trailers don’t have a great record of accuracy, and you’d think that us “serious” movie people would remember that, but we don’t. Every year there are trailers that don’t make their movies look any good and every year there are some movies with horrible trailers that end up being really great. We should remember that only the movie is the movie, and everything else is meaningless

Movie Review: Submarine (2010)

I’ve seen Richard Ayoade in a few things including The IT Crowd, a hilarious Britcom where he plays a socially awkward IT guy of the highest order. He is brilliant in the show but it didn’t prepare me for his superb directorial prowess. He directed the superb Pulp Fiction/My Dinner With Andre episode of Community earlier this year but even that didn’t let on just how good Ayoade is behind the camera. If there is one thing that Submarine has going for it, it’s the supreme technical craft of the film. Everything looks right, feels right, acts right. It’s a subjective film, we only see the events through the lens of Oliver Tate, and as such Ayoade is free to break reality as often as he wants. When Oliver mentions in an early voice over that this moment would be best suited to a rising crane shot but that the film of his life would only have the budget for a zoom out the frame predictably zooms out, even a bit awkwardly. People freeze while the camera moves and when his father talks about “being underwater” the next shot shows him hunched below the large fish tank previously hidden off-screen. But is that enough? Does the story work beyond the technical achievements?

Well, kinda. Mostly. Probably. Yes? The problem (or not) is that Oliver Tate needs a good slap in the face. He’s got a big ego with little to back it up. He’s the victim of bullying but bullies others in order to get the attention of a girl, Jordana Bevan. And she’s not immune to emotional problems. Their relationship seems to be based on doing as little as possible that could be perceived as actual fun. Or love. The practically torture each other, even though they both want to be with each other. It makes for difficult viewing. I just wanted to go into the screen and sit them down for a little heart to heart in the early goings. Tell them that they need to stop being so pretentious. Stop acting so uninterested in everything. Just enjoy things. Luckily, the film does that for me after the first section. With the reintroduction of Oliver’s mom’s old flame creating marital strife and Jordana’s mom having brain cancer these two teenagers are forced to deal with issues outside themselves. They’re kicked out of their own world and into reality, as much as they try to resist.

The acting in this film is phenomenal. Even if I didn’t care for the two romantic leads (Oliver and Jordana), their actors (Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige) perform them quite well. The adult actors play their roles well, too. Paddy Considine (pictured above rocking the silliest haircut I’ve seen outside a Coen brothers film) brings a kind of quiet humanity to a role that could have been over the top and silly, the spiritual new-age-y motivational speaker that used to date Sally Hawkins‘ Jill Tate (Oliver’s mom) before she married Noah Taylor‘s Lloyd Tate. This couple totally works. You can see why they were a good match for each other – the idea of Noah Taylor’s depressed, scraggly professor ripping his sweater vest off to woo Hawkins’ neurotic wannabe actress is one of the funniest images in the film, even though it’s not shown because they bring so much depth to such lifeless characters – and why they are drifting apart. This is where Oliver and Jordana could end up if they aren’t careful. So trapped in their own ways that seemingly nothing can break them out of their idiosyncrasies.

In fact, for all of my misgivings about the early parts of the film (which are spectacularly done, I must reiterate. I just couldn’t stand the characters), this story develops into something with real heart. It is, after all, a coming of age story – a bildungsroman, if you’ll allow me an English major word and let me justify the title of this blog – and Oliver and Jordana develop into better people. They understand that there is more than just their inner lives and that sometimes people screw up. They learn that relationships of any kind are hard to sustain and that the outcome is worth the effort. When the film ends you have hope that these two, and even the three adults, will be able to live with a little bit more compassion instead of the empty affectations they put on in the early goings. And it’s also quite funny. There are clever jokes and character moments and even filmmaking techniques that make the film flow with a quick wit and a quicker pace. Not since Edgar Wright‘s Hot Fuzz have I seen the kinds of filmic jokes found in this movie. It’s always good to see a joke whose punchline is a cut instead of an actual line. Ayoade’s technical and, more importantly, emotional awareness makes him a writer and director to watch out for.

Submarine (2010) – Written and directed by Richard Ayoade