This Post Have Been Approved for Appropriate Audiences

[green screen, white lettering, black drop shadow on text] "The following PREVIEW has been approved for APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc."

This picture is a screenshot I cut from a trailer on YouTube.

Do you ever questions this screen when you’re at the cinema? “Appropriate Audiences,” what does that even mean? I would love to give you an explanation. I wonder what exactly how these “Appropriate Audiences” are defined every single time I watch the trailers in a movie theatre. Unfortunately, when you search “Appropriate Audiences” on the Motion Picture Association of America website, you get a bunch of links but not a definition. Don’t get me wrong, generally speaking, I love trailers and the whole experience of the big screen and surround sound but I do spend a good portion of any trailer watching it and wondering how the movie that I’m watching the trailer for is similar to the movie (based on released trailers and clips) I’ve come to see. In many cases, the things that the movies have in common is fairly obvious, that they are both the same genre, aimed at teens, made by the same studio, or have a primary actor in common but every once in a while they’ll throw something in there that just make you think, “Where the hell did that come from?” Usually, for me this is a horror movie of some kind, because I do not like horror movies and therefore do not go see horror movies, which always make me wonder how they really ‘approve’ the audiences for these trailers but I digress.

When I first started planning for the Trailer Cut Project and thus this assignment, I originally thought that I would be doing a Romantic Comedy trailer because although known for being highly formulaic, the dime-novel of movies, and perpetuating the ideals of unrealistic love, I like them. I know they’re unrealistic, I do, but I still like them because I like stories where people end happily and they have a variety of locations and good characterization even if you know how it’s going to end. This is a common theme in art, music, literature, and, even our cult definition about love: it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Just because you know that the Sistine Chapel ceiling features bible paintings (1), Edward and Elinor eventually get their happy ending, or that Vespers will end with Silent Night, the lighting of candles, and drifting out to Oakmont does not mean that you stop going, listening, reading, or looking, even though you know that going in. In preparing for the project, I realized that although I had a few possibilities for applicable movies but a lot more that were too meaningful independently to even consider trying to make fit in the trailer. If you made The American President or V for Vendetta into just a romantic comedy in any sort of representation it would just be wrong. A movie is essentially an idea, given power by people, because it means something to the people who made it or who see it. By definition movies are given power in our lives because we like them and therefore I decided to focus instead on inspirational movies.

I actually didn’t know that “inspirational” is not technically a movie genre so in gathering a collection of my favorite “inspirational” movies (or trailers in the case of the Intouchables, which I actually haven’t seen) and found at that most of them are actually categorized as “dramas”. First of all I found that the most popular length of the dramatic trailer is approximately 2 minutes and thirty seconds, which may seem a bit daunting in terms of having to re-cut a trailer that length particularly considering that all of these movies included synced audio and video but most of the individual shots last a few seconds or more. I know this is probably not true for all dramatic trailers, and I’m not suggesting that it is, but I think it is definitively true for these because I have chosen movies in which the professed words and ideas can make all the difference (Mona Lisa Smile and Dead Poet’s Society). A few of them have over-arching narration (Music Within) or words imposed over the video (On a Clear Day and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)–usually where the main character(s) have to concur external forces and in which the text is given in easily read, white lettering. I also found that trailer forms were not universal–I’d seen the US version of the Salmon Fishing in the Yemen trailer originally but when I found the UK version online, I found that although they are approximately the same length, the screen shots are approximately the same length but there are two main differences: one) the United Kingdom version plays up the cultural aspects of the film, which is logical considering that part of it is set in the United Kingdom, two) that they also played up the comedic and romantic elements of the film. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are comedic and romantic aspects of the film but somehow portraying the film as more that and less of a monumental accomplishment, pigeon-holed with character epiphanies and greater semiotics at work seems ‘off’ somehow. Or maybe I’m just bias because I’ve grown up primarily surrounded by American culture.

In watching re-cut trailers (again limiting my looking to movies I at east knew something about, so I wouldn’t be totally lost) I found particular emphasis on the overarching music of the trailers. In the re-cut versions, I found two distinct divisions calm music that seems to drag you into oblivion and suggests a sense of detachment and separation between the audience and the characters and a loud version of the sort of dramatic or suspenseful music (which actually I’m pretty sure is from Inception) that does not leave any room for interpretation that the film might be dramatic but rather that it is dramatic, rather in the way that Chuck Klosterman argues that laugh tracks demand that something is funny. Additionally, one of the re-cut trailers I found (for the Shawshank Redemption) was rather awful and tedious to even watch because the pacing was so very disjointed, every shot seemed to be at least four quiet, suspenseful seconds, there was a very long set-up for the new story, there were about ten script-reading panels to set up the story, the music had a very practiced distancing feel, and this ideological suspense went on for a total of four minutes. I don’t really like these dramatic re-cut trailers, they’re not very encouraging to be sure although part of that may have something to do with having to scroll through about five pages in order to find three films that I knew something about. Although, I did find one dramatic re-cut I actually liked, yes, the music is a bit overdone but the Garden State is so strange to begin with that it seems to be a relatively good representation. I now feel thoroughly educated on what not to do.

Trailers: The American President, Dead Poet’s Society, the Intouchables, Joyeux Noel, Mona Lisa Smile, Music Within, On a Clear Day, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

Re-cut Trailer: Back to the Future (Drama Re-cut), The Shawshank Redemption (Crime Drama), and Garden State (What is Insanity?).

1. In the category of fun Art History fact, that really have no place in this post but, probably because I’m particularly nerdy, I find exceedingly funny and therefore want to include: Michelangelo who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. He only did the paintings on the ceiling because when the Pope asks you to paint something you don’t say, Excuse me, but I’m really a sculptor at heart, you paint the ceiling. Although, he reportedly complained about painting the ceiling the entire time and even wrote about it in his journals.

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