I’m going to assume that the upcoming WARRIOR, which I haven’t yet seen, does not have one of the closest-held secret switcheroos since THE CRYING GAME. That is, that the trailer below does NOT feature only scenes from the the first 30 minutes or so, and that the real story kicks in after the big fight between the brothers. Maybe one brother kills the other and the bulk of the film is about the aftermath — an MMA version of MILLION DOLLAR BABY.
Now I dunno about you, but after seeing that trailer several times in theatres and on TV (though less frequently than you might suspect at UFC programming and PPVs), I feel like I’ve seen the movie in one-minute miniature. The few-second moments come in what could be — even if they’re actually not — chronological dramatic order. The trailer seems to more or less tells the entire story and give the character outlines except for the one final plot detail. If that trailer were extended another 10 seconds to show Tom Hardy’s character KO’ing Joel Edgerton’s in the climactic fight (or Hardy submitting to a choke … however it ends), it more or less would be the movie in miniature. Then consider the following trailer from a well-known movie from 1943.
Now obviously a comparison of the two movies’ merits would be ridiculous. But keep in mind that CASABLANCA wasn’t planned to be a exceptional film (in the sense of “an outlier”). Rather it was planned as another product of the Warner Brothers factory, so the clip makes for a reasonable comparison of what a “typical” early-40s trailer was like, though it offers the advantage that everyone now is, or should be, familiar with the finished film. What the CASABLANCA trailer is selling is an atmosphere and milieu, and its stars. Unlike WARRIOR, you could not tell from this trailer what the plot of CASABLANCA is about except that there’s a romantic triangle involving Bogart, Bergman and Henreid. The “letters of transit” is, of course, a classic Macguffin, but it is still the narrative skeleton and the trailer basically doesn’t mentions them — we see Ugarte being hunted down without any sense of who he is or why; and there’s a brief allusion in the line “I want those letters” in a moment from the scene where Ilsa threatens to shoot Rick. But that’s it. The trailer even includes the climactic “action” moment — Rick shooting Maj. Strasser — but without giving you any sense that it is in fact, the dramatic climax. None of the now-classic lines — “here’s looking at you, kid” “play it, Sam,” “I am shocked SHOCKED,” “We’ll always have Paris,” “of all the gin joints …” “I stick my neck out for no man” (or any other sense of Rick’s cynicism or woundedness for that matter) — are “stepped on.” Nor is “As Time Goes By” played. Indeed … here is the trailer for CASABLANCA’s 1992 re-release, done in the contemporary style and altering nearly everything I just said about the 1942 trailer.
As you can infer from that, critics have been lamenting the increasing spoilerage factors in trailers for some time now. But the reason I highlight the WARRIOR trailer isn’t just that seemed unusually coherent as a stand-alone story. It’s also that one factor in this trend, I am now convinced, occurred to me specifically because of WARRIOR’s subject matter — the influence of ESPN and other sports channels. I don’t know how this could be provable, but I think audiences may have been primed by sports programming to want and accept one-minute-digests, and this is influencing the cutting of trailers. That WARRIOR trailer is (feels like) basically the film’s highlight reel. Or, to put it another way, it feels like the SportsCenter segment on the movie. Having seen hundreds of game segments, I mentally kicked myself for not noticing the similarity before. You can go to a sporting contest and see the entire game. Or you can watch SportsCenter, the segments of which are specifically intended to give you the sense of the game/fight — the big plays, the dramatic turning points, and the conclusion. After all, the point of a SportsCenter segment is to boil down the entire three-hour game (or three-round fight, to continue the WARRIOR analogy) into a digestible minute or so. It is NOT the segment’s purpose to do what a movie trailer used to do, and theoretically still should — to “tease” you into wanting to watch the whole game later. And not because ESPN doesn’t rerun and repeat whole games, it has an entire channel devoted to just that — ESPN Classic. But among sports fans, it’s fairly common and accepted to say “I saw the SportsCenter segment” as an answer to the question “did you see the game?” And in today’s sports-programming-saturated culture, it’d be hard to see how that preference could be hermetically sealed.
Or maybe … THESE are the bad influences on movie trailers like WARRIOR’s:
Did you know that you can die without having seen a single nonfiction film made before 1988? Well, obviously you CAN — though in that same sense you need never have seen one made after 1988 either. But the whole premise of the Current TV series “50 Documentaries To See Before You Die,” which concluded last week, is that the nonfiction/documentary film is a worthy enterprise and that there ARE 50 such films. And stipulating that there are, this list is, excuse me, a born-yesterday travesty.
Here is the list, after the jump:
I suppose if I’m gonna rant against TIFF and/or the Canadian character (I also recently referred to the country on my Twitter feed as The Sensitive Socialist Republic of Canuckistan), I should tell of an event with the Festival organizers last year. I intended to write this up last year to thank some folks, but … well, never did.
I went to my hotel’s business center to write one morning when my first film (BLUE VALENTINE) didn’t start until noon. I packed up around 1130 and was out the door of the hotel when I realized, I didn’t have my tickets for that day’s four films though I could swear I took them to the business center. (To minimize the damage from just this possibility, I have never carried around the whole fest’s tickets, just That Day’s.) I go back to my room — not there. And then to the business center — not there and nobody has turned them in. Drat. And double drat.
By now, I’d had to write off BLUE VALENTINE, which I saw a few months later in commercial release. Fortunately, I have vouchers for three films (I only used 47 of my 50-ticket allotment), so I go to the Festival Box Office to plead my case for salvaging the rest of the day. Here’s the rub — the passes are only good for one ticket to any given screening. I explain to the volunteer when I get to the Box Office that yes, the computer says I already have tickets to all these films I’m requesting to use my three vouchers on, but I’ve lost those and can you PLEASE make an exception. I point out that I have a ticket for a film that’s playing right now, so obviously I’m not lying about having lost them. She thinks she can override the computer but calls over her boss to get the needed approval. I explain the situation again to the boss and she says basically “not a problem.” That’s BREAK THE RULES #1.
So I get a ticket for MEEK’S CUTOFF. And then they call up THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU — it’s sold out and it’s Rush Line only. And then they call up UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES — ditto. Drat. And double drat. I say in a resigned and stoic way — “OK. Oh well. Guess it’s Rush Line for me then.” Before I could leave, the boss replies, “No, no. Let me print you tickets anyway.” On her own authority, she gave me tickets to two officially sold-out films because (something like) “it’s people like you, film lovers who commit to this festival, that make it what it is.” It had come out in conversation that I had come up from Washington with a 50-film pass for the 9th year in a row and was spending almost two weeks in Canada. I thanked her repeatedly, and she told me she was planning to see UNCLE BOONMEE herself that night. That’s BREAK THE RULES #2.
I get into MEEK’S CUTOFF and meet pinko socialist bud Josh Rothkopf before the film. I tell him a less-detailed version of the previous (I had lamented my loss earlier on Twitter). And Josh made some gently pointed joke about Canadian rationality and willingness to BREAK THE RULES in the interest of accommodation and making others happy. To which, there is nothing to do but agree. Lord knows I would’ve got nowhere if this had been the Bucharest Film Festival.
So, to whoever were the Festival Box Office workers on the morning of Sept. 16, 2010 — thank you for your typically Canadian hospitality and accommodating niceness, even if meant technically BREAKING THE RULES.
(OK … can I get into your socialist country now?)
UPDATE: … and filmgeekbud Darren Hughes definitively one-ups that anecdote about Canadian solicitousness into the dust.
I went this year with the online ticket ordering, and I doubt I’ll do it again if I come back (which is by no means a certainty) because of an idiotic cockup in how it handles second choices. They apparently just assign them by priority without regard for time, which resulted in my getting more than one ticket for several time slots in the first few days. In addition, there’s several films I want to see but didn’t even try for — Refn’s DRIVE, Ramsey’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and Almodovar’s THE SKIN I LIVE IN — because there was only one true public screening thanks to the festival’s loading up on $40-a-ticket “Premium Screenings” that my $700-upfront-for-50-films pass can’t even be used for at all. Do Canadians really call America “the land of bilk and money”? If so, here’s a good ol’ American Bronx cheer at’cha 8-d…… Another discouraging two-year trend has been the increasing dearth of weekday daytime screenings (and near-absence of morning ones) in favor of more at night and on weekends. I realize these times were “somewhat” less attended than others, but in 10 years and more than 400 films at Toronto, regardless of the time of day, I have never seen the kind of three-folks-per-row theaters that commercial multiplexes would still consider good business four days a week, minimum. And probably a majority of the films, even during work hours, have been packed.
Yeah, yeah … first-world problems, I know. And if I ever bitch about the Wi-Fi like Jeffrey Wells, just go ahead and shoot me. But I’ve always told non-cinephile friends that I go to Toronto every year because is the best film-festival in the world for ordinary folks, i.e., people without press badges or jobs in the industry. Obviously there’s the red-carpet juried affairs in Cannes and Venice, but those fests are not open to the general public, at least as far as actually seeing the films is concerned (as red-carpet props, we serfs are fine, apparently). That had never been the case with Toronto, which was round-the-clock awesomeness (plus a Godard show or two #ducks) open to everybody. When presenting ANOTHER YEAR in 2009, Mike Leigh said he loves to bring his films there because “it’s a people’s festival.” Every year for the last several, it has become increasingly less so.
OK … rant over. Here is my schedule, which is more in flux than usual thanks to the scheduling woes. Here’s the weird coding: a film title underlined means I’m gonna try to exchange or buy a ticket at the box office; a film title in italics means I plan to get into the rush line for last-minute tickets just before the screening; two consecutive films marked with an asterisk means I have tickets for both but they effectively play at the same time. In the last case, I now plan to see the first-named time but that may change depending on buzz. Strange that the only day I know I’m gonna see six films is the usually light first day (thanks to a 4 1/2-hour German project that consists of three narratively interlocking 90-minute films by different directors). Wait … three films for the price of one? Maybe TIFF isn’t so bad after all.
Thu, 8 Sept
noon DREILEBEN Jackman Hall
— “Beats Being Dead” (Christian Petzold, Germany)
— “Don’t Follow Me Around” (Dominik Graf, Germany)
— “One Minute of Darkness” (Christoph Hochhäusler, Germany)
600pm INTO THE ABYSS (Werner Herzog, USA) Ryerson Theatre
945pm THIS IS NOT A FILM (Jafar Panahi, Iran) Lightbox 3
midnight THE RAID (Gareth Evans, Indonesia) Ryerson Theatre
Fri, 9 Sept
200pm PLAY (Ruben Ostlund, Sweden) AMC 4
530pm BEAUTY (Oliver Hermanus, South Africa) AMC 2
530pm KEYHOLE (Guy Maddin, Canada) Lightbox 1
* 815pm GOOD BYE (Mohammed Rasoulof, Iran) AMC 6
* 930pm CHICKEN WITH PLUMS (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Perronaud, France) Isabel Bader Theatre
midnight GOD BLESS AMERICA (Bobcat Goldthwait, USA) Ryerson Theatre
Sat, 10 Sept
1000am THE ARTIST (Michel Hazanavicius, France) Lightbox 2
100pm A MONSTER IN PARIS (Bibo Bergeron, France) Lightbox 2
300pm GOON (Michael Dowse, Canada) Ryerson Theatre
400pm A SEPARATION (Asghar Farhadi, Iran) Lightbox 3
* 645pm AZHAGARSAMY’S HORSE (Suseendran, India) AMC 3
* 615pm MONSTERS CLUB (Toshiaki Toyoda, Japan) AMC 2
915pm BUNOHAN (Dain Said, Malaysia) AMC 2
Sun, 11 Sept
1230pm THE DESCENDANTS (Alexander Payne, USA) Winter Garden Theatre
300pm MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Sean Durkin, USA) Ryerson Theatre
600pm IN DARKNESS (Agnieska Holland, Poland) Elgin Theatre
915pm MISS BALA (Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico) Scotiabank 4
midnight LIVID (Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, France) Ryerson Theatre
Mon, 12 Sept
1100am RAMPART (Oren Moverman, USA) Elgin Theatre
200pm TWIXT (Francis Coppola, USA) Scotiabank 13 2
515pm FOOTNOTE (Joseph Cedar, Israel) Lightbox 2
930pm AMONG US (Marco Van Geffen, Holland) AMC 5
Tue, 13 Sept
900am THE LONELIEST PLANET (Julia Loktev, USA) Lightbox 1
1215pm YOUR SISTER’S SISTER (Lynn Shelton, USA) Lightbox 1
315pm SHAME (Steve McQueen, Britain) Lightbox 1
615pm ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey) Lightbox 1
915pm A BETTER LIFE (Cedric Kahn, France) Lightbox 1
Wed, 14 Sept
915am DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Whit Stillman, USA) Scotiabank 4
1215pm THE MOTH DIARIES (Mary Harron, Canada) Scotiabank 4
300pm ALPS (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece) Lightbox 2
730pm MICHAEL (Markus Schleinzer, Austria) Lightbox 2
930pm SLEEPING BEAUTY (Julia Leigh, Australia) Lightbox 1
Thu, 15 Sept
945am INVASION (Hugo Santiago, Argentina, 1969) Lightbox 2
230pm TRESPASS (Joel Schumacher, USA) Elgin Theatre
545pm THE LAST CRISTEROS (Matias Meyer, Mexico) AMC 3
745pm THE KID WITH A BIKE (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium) Isabel Bader Theatre
Fri, 16 Sept
930am OUTSIDE SATAN (Bruno Dumont, France) Lightbox 2
1145am HABEMUS PAPAM (Nani Moretti, Italy) Scotiabank 3
215pm LAS ACACIAS (Pablo Giorgelli, Argentina) AMC 2
600pm TYRANNOSAUR (Paddy Considine, Britain) Elgin Theatre
830pm THE OTHER SIDE OF SLEEP (Rebecca Daly, Ireland) Jackman Hall
midnight SMUGGLER (Katsuhito Ishii, Japan) Ryerson Theatre
Sat, 17 Sept
930am CORIOLANUS (Ralph Fiennes, Britain) Scotiabank 3
245pm MELANCHOLIA (Lars Von Trier, Denmark) Ryerson Theatre
615pm THE DEEP BLUE SEA (Terence Davies, Britain) Lightbox 1
900pm KILLER JOE (William Friedkin, USA) Elgin Theatre
Sun, 18 Sept
1230pm THE TURIN HORSE (Bela Tarr, Hungary) Lightbox 3
315pm THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (Joshua Marston, USA/Albania) Lightbox 2
600pm GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (Mia Hansen-Love, France) Scotiabank 1
915pm THE LAST GLADIATORS (Alex Gibney, USA) Scotiabank 4