Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

More trailer trash

In my previous missive, I made two major points: 1) I actively seek out and watch as many movie trailers as I can manage, and 2) I am increasingly bothered by an escalating trend in movie trailers to give away the whole friggin’ movie.

Now, this raises the obvious question: if what goes on with movie trailers annoys me so much, why don’t I just avoid them or ignore them instead of making a point of seeing as many as I can? Am I not just asking for trouble? Well, that’s just a little too logical. Besides, I’ve never been one to take the easy way out.

The point is: many, if not most, of the trailers I see are for movies that I will never view or that I will view in some distant future on a television screen. Therefore, little or no damage is done. Moreover, I prefer to watch them, despite the annoyance of having key moments revealed and thus spoiled, for the same reason most people do. With so many movies to choose from, you need all the help you can in finding the ones that you are likely to enjoy and/or appreciate. And the more you know about a film, the better you can make that decision. So, you have a paradox. You need to know something about a movie to decide if you want to see it, but you don’t want to know so much that it ruins the experience of seeing it.

Then there is the case of the Major Motion Picture Event where you can’t wait to get your first glimpse of what is coming, where you’re desperate for a taste of something you’ve been anticipating for ages. But don’t take my word for this. Ask any of the large numbers of people who last year shelled out full price for a movie they weren’t the least bit interested in seeing and just stayed long enough to see the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

There is, however, another reason that I watch with rapt attention all these “coming attractions” that precede the main feature. Many of them are entertaining in their own right.

Have you ever seen a two-minute trailer for a movie that totally kicked and it made you so hot to see that movie that you went out and saw it as soon as you could? And then, after sitting through two disappointing hours, you realized that there were only two minutes’ worth of good moments in the whole movie? And they were all in the trailer!

It’s true. I’m becoming convinced that the people who put together the trailers are generally much more talented than many of the people making the movies. They seem to have knack for spotting all the best moments in a film and for stringing them together in a visually pleasing way, with just the right pacing and generally with fine musical accompaniment. I have been blown away by trailers for movies that I wouldn’t dream of seeing in a million years. And this works because some ideas for movies are worth two hours, some are worth three hours, and some (let’s see, Stigmata comes to mind) are worth just two minutes. In the last case, it’s no wonder that the trailer works so much better than the full-length feature.

Of course, I’m not the only one to have picked up on this. It’s not uncommon for friends to recommend a movie to me by saying, “There are more good parts than just what’s in the trailer.” This is nothing if not a tacit acknowledgement that there are two kinds of trailers out there: the kind that show you all the good stuff up front in a desperate attempt to lure you into the cinema to try to make a few bucks before word of mouth spreads and the kind that give you just a hint of what is in store if you are lucky enough to let yourself be enticed.

Now, if only the motion picture industry would put a rating on each trailer to let us know which is which.

-S.L., 18 May 2000

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