The Truth is in the Trailer (or not?)

I love movies, not gonna lie.  Even though I consider my taste to be very good, I’m the first to admit I am often swept up in the excitement that trailers try to induce.  When I put a movie in the DVD player, or I’m sitting in the theater anxiously awaiting the film, I always get very interested in the trailers, even if it’s just to mock them.  Thus, movie trailers hold a special place in my heart.  I’ve seen fantastic trailers for crappy movies, and crappy trailers for fantastic movies.  All of the trailers I discuss are for movies I love (except Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace) and thus I think they are all fantastic trailers.  Most especially the Blue Valentine trailer, which doesn’t really follow the typical format.  

Let’s get right to it. It looks like the longest trailers were definitely the recut ones.  Overall, they were an average of about two minutes long.  The longest was 2:30; the shortest was about 1:46.  In terms of shot length, the ones that built up to an exciting conclusion used longer cuts that got shorter.  The love story trailers used short to medium length shots.  The recut trailers used shorter shots, which I would guess is because they needed to use clips out of context to mean something different.  The transitions were mostly very simple.  In the funny films’ trailers (e.g. Seven Psychopaths), they used wipe transitions several times throughout, but the other films used simple cuts.  Overall, the more dramatic, sad trailers (Moon, Shame) were slower paced with longer shots.  The comedy/love story trailers (Adventureland, Being John Malkovich) introduced you to the characters first, usually with narration (in fact, these were the only films to use narration).  A few, like Star Wars, started out slowly and then got REALLY fast paced.

The music varied greatly.  It seemed to be a great way to tell the audience what sort of tone the film has.  Adventureland, set in the 1980s, played all indie 80s songs.  Moon‘s music was creepy but beautiful and, somehow, thoughtful.  Star War’s music was supposed to echo the original trilogy.  Being John Malkovich, Seven Psychopaths, and Chasing Amy used cute, jazzy, funny music.  Shame used dark, dramatic, somber music. Blue Valentine featured one character singing and playing the ukulele through the whole trailer.  All of the trailers featured music underneath the dialogue (except Blue Valentine, which contained no dialogue).  None of the trailers particularly used sound effects except the ones that contained action (Seven Psychopaths, Moon, Star Wars).

Some of the films deliberately chose fonts that were unassuming and basic.  The trailers for Shame, Seven Psychopaths, Adventureland, and Moon did not; Shame used large, block letters that seemed cold.  Seven Psychopaths used paint splattered letters; Adventureland used carnivalesque letters; Moon used futuristic letters.  The audio synchronization varied greatly: Seven Psychopaths, Chasing Amy, and Moon were very well synchronized and always paired with appropriate video. Blue Valentine was very unique in that its audio came when the screen was black; then the matching video came, followed by video clips with the same first audio throughout.  Adventureland, Star Wars, and Being John Malkovich were mostly all synchronized to appropriate video, except several points where a character is given advice or explaining something. Shame’s audio and video were not usually in sync; the character describes something or has a conversation and you see it paired with shorter video clips.

As for the recut trailers, the Willy Wonka one was interesting because it didn’t follow the normal steps necessary for a recut trailer.  Almost all of the audio was synchronized; mostly the scariness was made obvious through the music choices and, to a small degree, type.  It also didn’t rely on any narrator.  It used type six times.  Home Alone used virtually no synchronized audio and heavily relied on type to tell the story (a total of thirteen type shots).  It, too, used scary music to convey the mood.  IT was the one that was not trying to be scary and instead tried to seem family friendly.  It, just like Home Alone, relied heavily on not-synchronized audio.  It took happy audio clips and paired them with images of the clown (who’s supposed to be terrifying when he smiles, but in fact is portrayed in this trailer as being goodhearted).  This one also didn’t rely too heavily on type, using about seven frames of type.

8 trailers: Seven Psychopaths, Blue Valentine, Moon, Adventureland, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Being John Malkovich, Shame, Chasing Amy

3 recut: Home Alone (family friendly as horror film), Willy Wonka (family friendly as horror film), IT (horror film as family friendly film)

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