Time to start my fourth annual review of the year, and where better place to start than where most cinema screenings also begin: the trailers. (Yes, technically most cinema screenings start with the adverts, but even I’m not desperate enough to pick out my favourite bits of non-cinematic commercial advertising.) At the start of the year I wrote a post called the Corridor Of Uncertainty, looking fondly at the various ephemera that make up your pre-film entertainment as well as the adverts and trailers and I then tracked that with each review I wrote for three months. The pattern that emerged was that the multiplexes were typically running at around 25 – 30 minutes, where smaller cinemas were coming in at a more leg and bottom-friendly fifteen minutes. It would be nice if what you’re expected to sit through before the film worked on its own terms, but that seems less and less the case.
What has become apparent over the course of the year is that, to quote an old cliché, they don’t make ’em like they used to. Take for example this trailer for The Innocents which is currently in cinemas on re-release.
While there’s certainly an efficiency to modern promos, with their two and a half minute running time, their teaser trailers, their trailer teasers and their ruthless marketing campaigns designed to take no prisoners, I can’t help but feel that something of the character of trailers of years gone by has been lost forever. Finding trailers that I feel make the grade this year feels as if it’s becoming increasingly difficult, but here are what are I consider to be the year’s dozen best films that have been brutally edited down into pocket form for promotional purposes. As always, because this is a cinema blog, some of these trailers may have been on t’internet last year, but you would have been seeing them in cinemas this year.
Best Trailer For A Not Very Good Movie: I Give It A Year
There’s plenty of laughs in this trailer, and often that’s a warning shot to anyone then moving onto the full film that the trailer might contain all of the film’s laughs. What was particularly impressive in this case is that the trailer actually contained more laughs than the film, many of these moments proving less funny in context than they were in isolation and the sour, narcissistic and generally unpleasant tone that permeated the film itself ultimately made it about as enjoyable as hearing a doctor give you a detailed report on the contents of your lower bowel.
Best Trailer Featuring Almost The Last Shot Of The Movie: You’re Next
If you see as many films as I do, then chances are that you’ll end up seeing some of the same trailers over and over again. I still have nightmares about seeing the trailer for Brendan Fraser film Inkheart what must have been over twenty times in the cinema as the release date kept getting pushed back (never did see the film) and consequently I could have played it out word for word. I caught this trailer for You’re Next several times over the summer, and a few moments stuck in my head to the point I was waiting for them to appear in the finished product. I’ll never know if this reduced my overall enjoyment of the film, but there were enough other moments that this was an unnecessary move on the trailer maker’s part.
Best Trailer Earworm: Stoker
Really enjoyed Stoker, so don’t be surprised when you see it in the Top 40 of the year later this week. I also remember coming out of the cinema with the track from this trailer, Dirge’s “Death In Vegas”, still playing in my head; all the more impressive when you consider that it doesn’t actually feature in the finished film. Not to knock Clint Mansell’s score for Stoker, as it’s one of the best of the year, but Dirge had embedded itself so deeply in my brain that when I started putting this list together, it instantly started playing in my head again on a loop.
Best Trailer Earworm Honourable Mention: Frances Ha
If I was a director, then I’d love to be able to pay such obvious homage to the works of others and be lauded for it, other than being accused of simply ripping off the original. I sat through all of the end credits of Frances Ha simply to listen to David Bowie’s classic Modern Love, but didn’t realise until afterwards that the scene is a direct reference to this scene from Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang.
Excuse me, back in a moment, just off to run jauntily down the street. It’s infectious.
Best WTF Trailer: Only God Forgives
So Drive. You really liked Drive, didn’t you? Yes, I did too, putting it number two in my Top 40 of 2011. So Nicolas Winding Refn’s new film has got Ryan Gosling in again. So yes, you’d expect it to be a lot like Drive again, wouldn’t you? So… ah. Ah right. (Warning: contains violence, karaoke and general weirdness.)
Best Trailer That Actually Contains The Post-Credits Sting: The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology
Having watched this on the last day of the Cambridge Film Festival this year, director Sophie Fiennes was present for a Q & A. On these occasions, often the credits are allowed to play out in the background silently so we can get straight to the discussion; Sophie asked to have the sound back up so we could watch the post-credits sting in all its glory, only to then discover that the whole thing is on the end of this trailer anyway. Still, the trailer does give a flavour of the insight available into Slavoj Zizek’s unique thinking.
Best Trailer That Accurately Represents A Film That No-One Saw: The Kings Of Summer
So, there have been 430 films so far to receive a cinema release in this country, of which I can lay claim to having seen just under a third. Two of them, The Way, Way Back and The Kings Of Summer, felt thematically similar and that’s the only reason I can think of that The Kings Of Summer struggled to find distribution. I caught it at the Prince Charles Cinema in London after a work trip to the capital, and it seemed to be one of the few cinemas showing it. While The Way, Way Back played across the country and took in just under $2.5 million at the UK box office, sandwiched on the list between Sammy’s Adventures 2 and Hitchcock, The Kings Of Summer didn’t fare quite so well.
Yes, that’s $0.024 million dollars. If you’ve seen more than one film on that list, well done you.
Best Editing: Don Jon
Yet another case of the promise of the trailer not being borne out in the film itself, but you feel it’s likely Joseph Gordon-Levitt was probably more hands-on in the process of compiling this trailer than many directors would be. Still don’t get the Scarlett Johansson thing, sorry.
Best Trailer For A Film Not Out Until Next Year: The Wolf Of Wall Street
Stiff competition in this category this year, with many of the later releases including Godzilla having impressive promos, and some of the earlier releases of the season such as American Hustle dazzling with their starry casts. I can also cheer myself up whenever slightly down by watching the Grand Budapest Hotel trailer again. (Card-carrying Wes Anderson fanboy, I guess.) But actually the most interesting promo for a film not due until 2014 is this, the first trailer for Martin Scorcese’s latest; Marty having fun is a none-more-appealing prospect.
Best Trailer Featuring A Scene Not In The Actual Film: Frozen
It’s like a little short film all its own. Sit back and enjoy. (The actual short film that precedes Frozen in cinemas, Get A Horse with Mickey Mouse, is also great, even if it is to actual Mickey Mouse cartoons what The Artist was to silent cinema.)
Best Trailer Of 2013: Gravity
When I saw the film, I spent most of it in terror of dodging debris and of my fear of heights trying to tell me that I was actually 372 miles above the earth and could fall at any moment. However, the trailer manages to capture that feeling of fear in under two minutes. For being able to send me whimpering from the cinema, wanting to scream “Grab the DAMN SPACESHIP!” at Sandra Bullock at the end of the trailer, and for expertly capturing the overall mood of the film without giving too much away, Gravity’s first trailer is my winner for 2013.