APRIL is the cruelest month of all…” TS Elliot, The Wasteland
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens
“It was the best of times it was the blurst of times.” Mr. Burns' 300 monkeys typing at typewriters.
These lines could summarize the film going zeitgeist this time of year.
It’s the worst of times because Late Jan. to the first week in May is when the studios throw out films that either they have no idea what to do with, want to have nothing to do with, or want to make a cheap buck with. So, we get a lot of chick flicks, comedies, and sci-fi/horror films (that wouldn’t hold up in the summer) this time of year. For many, it’s the offseason for film, the time between the bevy of films studios march out for award season, and the summer blockbusters.
So why is this time of year the best of times? Two words: Trai-lers. Trailers aren’t anything new, and in fact they’ve become rather formulaic of late, where it starts out slow, describe the director as “visionary” (as opposed to what? “The guy who has no idea what he wants?”), have a moment where it goes silent, then throw in an increasingly fast montage of the more exciting scenes from the film to a bombastic orchestral sound. Include either a comedic or pensive epilogue and don’t forget to label Oscar winners/nominees in the cast, and there you go.
I love old trailers. The one’s from the 30’s where they’d open a copy of the book they were adapting, the hyperbole filled ones of the 40’s and 50’s, “the most incredible and amazing scenes in motion picture history!” which seemed to happen each month. And of course, I collect exploitation trailers of the 60’s and 70’s in all their sleazy bombast.
But what is it about trailers this time of year? This is the time of year when trailers are full of explosions, car chases, Vin Diesel, and all the best bits from comedies. I mean seriously, who likes to see trailers in the fall for the methodical and subdued Oscar bait films? I mean seriously, I love the art houses, but last fall I saw some of the most uninteresting trailers I’ve seen. But this time of the year is the time of year when every movie is the best thing ever; right now Terminator Salvation looks like the best movie ever made. Period. Mcg hasn’t ruined anything. JJ Abrams has resurrected Star Trek, Drag me to Hell has marked Sam Raimi’s return to horror.
And now we find the cruelty. Remember how awesome the first Watchmen trailer was? It was better than the film; it was the best Smashing Pumpkins video since “Tonight, Tonight ” (google it kids. And if necessary google: Music video). Remember when Snakes on a Plane was a fun idea? Thousands of fans who were no doubt eager to catch the Wolverine film have suddenly realized via illegal means and an unfinished film to boot, that the film wasn’t any good and that 20 more minutes and several million dollars of more explosions won’t fix it. But wasn’t that trailer awesome? I mean you got wolverine in the civil war and then taking on that chopper? The only thing a story can do there is get in the way of things. Any way to slice it (sic) there’s no legitimate psychologically motivated reason for Wolverine to be attacking a helicopter head on other than its coolness. And a story only points that out to us.
I remember an Onion article from last year: Successful Iron Man Trailer to be Made into a Feature film. It’s funny, alas, because (you guessed it) it’s true.
If I had the time I’d back this up. I think I could make a very decent case that trailers are the most successful form of motion pictures, if one is to view them as pure sensory experiential products of an industry.