Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?
This week we watch a liar, and a thief get her glorious comeuppance, take things to the mat, take a trip to Cuba, deal with some heavy melodrama, and try and escape a bad situation through basketball.
You’ve got to respect documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney’s choices. For the most part, the man is not interested in tackling easy issues. In his latest, he’s aiming at a Silicon Valley wunderkind turned liar. Even though most of us know this story ends with Elizabeth Holmes‘ billion-dollar healthcare company, Theranos, eventually succumbing to its untruths and misdirections, there’s an inherent curiosity about how it all came to pass. There is no way I’m not consuming every frame of this one.
In the first of two trailers featured today that focus on the athleticism of young men on thee road to something more significant, this documentary is a bit of a revelation. Directors Suzannah Herbert and Lauren Belfer make what should be a tiny story into a must-see narrative.
Hoop Dreams goes to the mat in this intimate, coming-of-age documentary about four members of a high-school wrestling team at Huntsville’s J.O. Johnson High School, a longstanding entry on Alabama’s list of failing schools. Coached by teacher Chris Scribner, teammates Jailen, Jamario, Teague, and Jaquan each face challenges far beyond a shot at the State Championship: splintered family lives, drug use, teenage pregnancy, mental health struggles, and run-ins with the law threaten to derail their success on the mat and lock any doors that could otherwise open. Tough-love coach Scribner isn’t off the hook, either; he must come to terms with his own past conflicts while unwittingly wading into the complexities of race, class and privilege in the South.
The real, honest lives of teens are nothing short of incredible as they navigate the lives that are unfolding before them as they deal with the pressures of growing into adulthood. This trailer captures that energy while also being wildly rough around the edges, perfectly capturing the life and times of being a teen.
A Tuba to Cuba
Sometimes a documentary makes you feel good, and this trailer telegraphs that so well. Directors T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch take what could be a moderately interesting yarn of musicians going down to Cuba and make the story appear nothing short of electric. Full of vim and vibrancy, the trailer promises a feel-good documentary of people coming together to make music with one another.
Director Kent Jones comes bearing a story about a woman who has some issues. This woman isn’t in the prime of her youth or dealing with a clear issue that needs resolving by the 3rd act. What we get is a story about a complex woman who is nearing the twilight of her existence and has to come to term with that.
For Diane (Mary Kay Place), everyone else comes first. Generous but with little patience for self-pity, she spends her days checking in on sick friends, volunteering at her local soup kitchen, and trying valiantly to save her troubled, drug-addicted adult son (Jake Lacy) from himself. But beneath her relentless routine of self-sacrifice, Diane is fighting a desperate internal battle, haunted by a past she can’t forget and which threatens to tear her increasingly chaotic world apart.
There seem to be no easy answers and no easy resolutions to any problems presented in this trailer. Buoyed by the pull-quotes that help reinforce what’s apparent on the screen, we’re left wondering how any ending will end up positively for our protagonist. Powerful and effective, to be sure.
Our next young, athletic hopeful comes to us by way of director Nick Budabin. Most would be right in saying that Hoop Dreams was the definitive basketball documentary, but there are plenty of other stories that are so damn compelling.
Chi-Town follows Keifer Sykes on his meteoric rise from Marshall High School on Chicago’s West Side to his improbable shot at the NBA. This exhilarating multi-year journey of the explosive point guard’s ascent is punctuated by personal loss, debilitating injury, and tragic violence. This is an intimate, raw, surprising and unique behind the scenes look at a true champion — and what it really takes to make it.
There is no doubt that documentaries like this help to contextualize the issues that face particular communities. In this case, you have someone who is trying to get up and out of their current environment. With the odds being incredibly long for someone looking to parlay their talent into something greater, there is an inherent curiosity about whether this person could be the one that finally overcomes it all.
Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at [email protected] or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp
In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:
- Ash is Purest White Trailer – Heavy
- Okko’s Inn Trailer – An explosion of color, for sure
- Aladdin Trailer – There could not be a more forceful hard pass than the one I am levying against this abomination
- The Curse of La Llorona Trailer – One long jump scare
- Catch-22 Trailer – Tonally, this is confusing
- The Hustle Trailer – Nope
- Teen Spirit Trailer – I like the intensity
- Yesterday Trailer – I accept this premise
- Tolkien Trailer – Movie-of-the-week vibes
- Shrill Trailer – I’m a fan
- Frozen 2 Trailer – It’s just going to print money, right?
- Ma Trailer – Yesss
- Pavarotti Trailer – Not sure I see the angle here
- Five Feet Apart Trailer – Nah
- Hannah Trailer – I’ll stick with the movie version
- Killing Eve Season 2 Trailer – Violence. Violence everywhere
- Love, Death + Robots Trailer – Hell. Yes.
- Doom Patrol Trailer – Won’t watch it
- Ask Dr. Ruth Trailer – Inspiring
- After Trailer – I don’t feel great after watching this
- Long Shot Trailer – Put this on the Maybe pile
- Triple Frontier Trailer – I would like this not to be terrible, please
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