Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top Ten Trailers of 2009

I really enjoy movie trailers. Or good ones at least. I know that many people think they give away too much of the film, and while that is certainly true, I have a great deal of appreciation for the trailers that affect me the most. Often times, the best trailers are for films with awards buzz that I'm going to see regardless of how the preview speaks to me, but there are always a few trailers each year that really floor me, and I respect them. I am consistently impressed by the lasting impact a handful of clips that comprise two and a half minutes (at the most) can have on me.

For now, I'd like to share what I think are the ten best trailers from 2009. Keep in mind that these are only trailers for films that were released in 2009. We all know how great the Inception trailer was, but since that film will be released in 2010, I am not considering it for this list. For a quick honorable mention, check out this trailer recut of Up and Gran Torino. It's sure to brighten your day. As always, please share your insights in the comments below.

10. Precious

This trailer simply takes advantage of the fact that Precious is a great film. About twenty seconds in, as if we didn't already know, it lets us know about the film's Sundance success, peaking our interest from the get go. The trailer wisely plays out the more shocking sequences towards the beginning -- such as the chilling moment when Mo'Nique hurls the pan towards her daughter -- and saves the more uplifting elements for the end of the trailer, leaving the audience feeling better about the possibilities of this film. There are not many people out there that want to go to a movie just to cry and be disturbed, and the trailer for Precious successfully intertwines its moments of grace and terror.

9. Antichrist

I'm glad I never saw this trailer for Antichrist in theaters last year because I wouldn't have been able to get it out of my head. Few previews will leave you as mesmerized as this one does. Quotations from film critics are a very useful tool in trailers, and this one uses that technique to great effect, opening up with one that will send goosebumps up your spine. Unlike Precious, this film has no uplifting element to speak of, and this trailer (much like the film) will turn many people off from the get go, but this trailer managed to stick with me long after it was over.

8. Away We Go

Away We Go was a disappointing film, but this trailer is a thing of beauty. Equal parts authentic and heart-warming, this preview really has the feel of a rare indie gem. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph couldn't be more authentic in their featured clips, and the Alexi Murdoch tune that plays throughout is perfection. Unfortunately, the finishing joke by Allison Janney runs on overkill, hinting at the downfall of the feature film. Nevertheless, I would gladly sit through this lovely two and a half minutes once again any day of the week.

7. Brothers

The trailer for Jim Sheridan's Brothers sets the tone for what has the potential to be first rate melodrama. The film comes awfully close to living up to those expectations, but this impressive preview does more than its share. Although the climactic kitchen scene was a bit of a disappointment to me, seeing Tobey Maguire explode in this trailer, with a baseball bat in had, was enough for me to want to see the movie right then and there. Co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman are equally impressive in their respective clips, and the featured U2 does song does its job as well.

6. A Single Man

For those of you who appreciate trailers that are light on story, A Single Man is the one for you. Punctuated by Abel Korzeniowski's hypnotic score, this preview is essentially one big montage, without a line of dialogue to be found. We see Colin Firth's character lying in his bed, walking through the university campus, and tidying up his suit. We see him doing all of these different things without a clue as to why he's doing them, and it's an underrated tool in convincing people to see a film. The sheer mystery, as well as the artistry, will get you into the theater after watching this trailer.

5. Star Trek

I was hardly familiar with the history of the Star Trek franchise before this film came out, yet this trailer effectively convinced me that this film was a must-see. Michael Giacchino's score, combined with the elements of Alexander Courage's original theme, is a real treat, perfectly accompanying the stunning visual achievements. The trailer begins with the bar scene, which I think is the highlight of the film, and it introduces us to Eric Bana's villain without giving away any of the storyline. This was one of the few trailers that got me excited for an early-year film. 

4. Where the Wild Things Are

Building off of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up," this teaser for Where the Wild Things Are is a beautifully engrossing montage, one that moves us and excites us. Max Records doesn't say a word in this clip, but he doesn't have to. His face says it all. There's no way you could look at that kid's face and not want to get to know the sadness behind it. Spike Jonze's adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's novel is one of the few gems in that genre of the past couple of years, and the trailer embodies that same emotional power.

3. An Education

The subtle brilliance of the trailer for An Education stems from the fact that it introduces a film of multiple genres. The first half, set to the Beth Rowley's jazzy tune "You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger," shows us the playful side of Nick Hornby's script. Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard are an instantly appealing couple, as is the film's throwback look. Where the trailer really distinguishes itself, however, is in the second half, where the dramatic pieces take hold, and we can practically envision the star-making performance of Carey Mulligan. The film didn't quite deliver as promised on the dramatic side of things, but the trailer remains a fantastic piece of work.

2. Up in the Air

Far superior to the film's official trailer, this teaser for Jason Reitman's Up in the Air is about as good as it gets. Although it remains a bit deceiving, as the film's comedic side isn't addressed, it paints an elaborate portrait of the pathos this film carries with it. George Clooney's voice-over is a unique insight to the mind of a frequent flyer, and it it juxtaposed perfectly with some of the film's most memorable images. The only fault I can find in this striking preview is that it doesn't introduce us to jewel that is Sad Brad Smith's "Help Yourself."

1. Crazy Heart

The trailer for Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart does one simple thing right: It features all of the best things about the film. Much of the sound is contributed to Ryan Bingham's masterful tune "The Weary Kind," while Jeff Bridges also delivers some of the terrific lines that define that country charm of his character, Bad Blake. As cliched as it is to call his work "the performance of a lifetime," it is still something powerful to see on the big screen, and I'd be shocked if many people didn't end up seeing the film based on that tagline alone. This is a montage I could watch over and over again.

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