The Long, Long Trailer

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Or maybe they just seem longer at Christmas, the trailers for all those year-end movies—since most manage to fit comfortably into the two-and-a-half-minute maximum time slot the MPAA mandates for theater promotional materials (what standards apply to the TV variants I've no idea). On the other hand, there are some notable exceptions—one a year per studio, according to MPAA guidelines—so if ever there's a time of year when exceptions tend to become the rule, right now's probably it.

Not that I'm put off by this, since for the most part I eagerly look forward to trailers—the more of 'em the better. At the old, depressing Plaza Theatre (part of the former Plitt chain before reincarnating itself—twice—as a discount outlet store, now mercifully demolished) at Devon and McCormick just west of the North Shore Channel, there'd typically be half a dozen or more per show—a lot of 'em more technically accomplished than the B-movie flotsam and Canadian tax-shelter dregs that made up the weekly playbill. And why not? With everything unwatchable scrupulously edited out, all that remained was pure kinetic rush: accelerated mayhem, hysterical foreshadowings, cars inexplicably hurtling out of everyone's control . . . . Though even then, Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn couldn't quite hack it: was it ever released theatrically anywhere in the world? Your guess is as good as mine.

Which brings me to the main point: what trailers do you find worth remembering, assuming you remember any? My own favorite—embarrassingly, since it's attached to an utterly wretched hack job—is for the Bruce Willis action vehicle Tears of the Sun (with Training Day's Anthony Fuqua the ignominious director of record), though which of a myriad of theatrical variants it might have been (since any number get screened before the commercial run starts) I really can't say. But the choreographic chutz that can shoehorn 90-plus minutes of staccato slam (no dialogue, please) into one delirious rococo-inflected bauble—with intercuts and overlays, assorted lap dissolves, even a couple shots matted in, fercrissake!—seems the height of commercial artistry to me, something that, e.g., Tony Scott, reigning avatar of the outtake style of filmmaking, could stick at the head of his resumé with pride.

As for trailers screening right now, the pick of the litter (save for Pan's Labyrinth, which—I'm guessing—should comfortably one-up its own elegant stylistic tease) seems to be the one for Rocky Balboa, the retired blue-collar fighter's comeback film, with our half-punchy, out-of-condition hero hurling 50-pound beer kegs against walls and punching out frozen sides of beef in meat lockers, the better to train for yet another inspirational march to the top. The trailer ends with some poor chump getting whaled, then it's freeze and cut to an all-black screen with the single word "Christmas" staring you in the face. All in the spirit of the season, I'm sure ... isn't Boxing Day the 26th?

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