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Can A Film Be Judged By Its Trailer Or Advertising Alone?

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Jan 28, 2009 06:49PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Since a trailer is nothing more than a commercial for a film, can we judge the quality of the film by the advertising alone? I think this is an interesting question because I despise modern trailers, they reveal too much, are too flashy, and rarely creative. They are mostly inane MTV inspired trash. I have a fairly good bullshit detector and trailers help me bypass the garbage so my time is spent with good films..often discovered by recommendation, chance, or sometimes an interesting trailer on a DVD.
Kubrick's trailer for THE SHINING is still one of my faves, as Carlos's eerie music floods the elevator scene with a torrent of blood. The stark credits roll and we are left puzzled and mezmerized. I saw this trailer in a theatre before its intital release (my mom took me to R rated horror films) and it chilled me...and I just had to see it!
The intital trailer for THE TWO TOWERS used the Kronos Quartet score from REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and to good effect.
But I believe some good films are torpedoed by bad advertising, where studios just don't know how to market a film. RE: IN BRUGES. This is a great film that wasn't intially well recieved because the studio presented it as a slick Tarantino style action flick...which it isn't.
My answer to the question is yes, most of the time. Not absolutely, but I think a trailer is usually a fair indicator of the quality (or not) of a film.
Just thought this would make an interesting topic. What do you think?

message 2: by Roshini (new)

Roshini Hi, I've never commented on these boards before, but I do think you've posed a great question. I feel that the music used on these trailers actually carries a lot of weight, though they are not part of the actual soundtrack. In fact, I've gone hunting for songs after hearing them on trailers, they just seem to set the mood for the movie. What are some other trailers that you feel did justice to the movies?

message 3: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10555 comments agreed - one of the only really effective trailers, in my opinion is the one for kubrick's the shining....just a horrifying image of a tidal wave of blood pouring out of an elevator - the titles, and wendy's great score. what more do you need?

i DON'T pay much attention to trailers. a friend of mine gets mad if we arrive late and don't see them. i like squeezing into my seat just as the film many trailers (for good films) have really put me off the movie. nowadays, i rely on friend's opinions and the rare review.

message 4: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments I would more believe in a trailer than in a review in a newspaper or magazine, cause there are few movies I went to see despite the bad reviews and they happened to be great. Reviews often spoil whole idea of watching movies in cinema. I've seen reviews of non-Polish movies that very compilation of few others from other newspapers. I see a trailer, I read a desciption of a movie and than decide to go or not. Te only movies I don't like to go to cinema are American romantic comedies, cause they are nearly the same. I love City of angels, cause it's different.

When you go to see a movie, forget about the trailer and the reviews and enjoy the movie.

message 5: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments Oy, Anna, what you need to do is find DIFFERENT reviewers to read. Why should you trust commercials (that's what trailers are) which are designed solely to separate you from your money, preferably on opening weekend, but not an opinion from someone without a stake in the outcome? The advice I give when I speak on the my own job as reviewer is not "Listen to me" but that people should check out reviews for movies they've already seen. When you find someone you agree with or who gives you insights you find helpful, THAT'S the person whose opinion you ought to seek out, even if you make up your own mind -- as you should -- whether to see the film or not.

As to trailers in general, they can be misleading, but they can also be entertaining in their own right. Alfred Hitchcock's trailer for "Psycho" is hilariously misleading and a classic in its own right. (You can see it, and many other trailers, with and without commentary tracks at the website "Trailers from Hell.")

In the end, while we may think we know a movie without seeing it -- and often we do -- it is possibly to be completely wrong. I know I was when I was doing a summer preview article years ago and saw a description for a vampire movie with Roddy McDowell as an aging TV horror host. Sounded absolutely horrible. Turned out to be "Fright Night," which was great fun.

P.S. to Anna, having just written a book on romantic comedies you cut me to the quick with the notion "they are nearly the same." As with my old prejudice against westerns, let me suggest that the problem may not be with romantic comedies, American or otherwise, but with BAD ones. If you're interested, I'd be happy to recommend a few good ones. :)

message 6: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments I don't go to a cinema on weekends, cause on weekends tickets costs nearly twice as much as on the normal wweekday. Generally I don't read reviews at all - just the descriptions of movies.

Romantic comedies usually have similiar stories. What would you recommend?

message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5337 comments So few trailers really give you an idea of what the film really is about. I remember a trailer for BUGSY, the Warren Beatty film about Bugsy Siegel, that made it look like a screwball comedy instead of the faux serious gangster epic it really was.

message 8: by Phillip (last edited Jan 29, 2009 08:14AM) (new)

Phillip | 10555 comments hmmmm. i would have missed some really nice films if i had not done a bit of further investigation on a film. i have seen some bad trailers, and then read a good review. the thing with reviews - you have to read them and get to know the critic's perspective, what they tend to like and not like. if all you ever read are those blurbs in the new yorker, well, good luck. a lot of that stuff reads pretty snotty to me. but there are reviewers here in the bay area - you read their stuff enough to say, well, if mick la salle liked it, i'll probably like it.

it's not so different from getting to know your friends' tastes in films. i know when B says she didn't like something because it was too violent, that her limit on violence is a lot lower than mine...that sort of thing.

the thing is: you have to think. trailers don't want you to do that. they want to do the thinking for you - which is why most of them are manipulative and not effective.

message 9: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments Anna wrote: "Romantic comedies usually have similiar stories. What would you recommend? "

Well I know nothing about your tastes or what you've seen. Have you tried any of these?

It Happened One Night, My Man Godfrey, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, The Shop Around the Corner, Adam's Rib, Annie Hall, Arthur, When Harry Met Sally, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually

message 10: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Jan 29, 2009 01:22PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I usually read about films in FILM COMMENT or CINEASTE magazines...or currently from my friends in this forum for recommendations. But I believe that the trailer is a lost form of art; Hitchcock was a master of self-advertisment and his trailers are absurd and very funny! Many modern trailers are nothing more than seizure-inducing visual patterns.

I just watched CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE and the trailer was very misleading to audiences of the day. This is no horror film but a psychological drama as a child subliminally absorbs her parent's trauma...and experiences social isolation amid a very active fantasy life. Very good film but not what's advertised.

message 11: by Allysse (new)

Allysse | 5 comments "Can A Film Be Judged By Its Trailer Or Advertising Alone? "
At least I don't think so.
I mean a trailer is just a trailer. It's a point of view on the film somehow. Scenes were chosen, dialogues and sentences too... And they don't make much point if you don't see the movie...

I've seen the trailer of Juno quite some time ago and I din't want to see the movie. I then read a lot of very good review about it... But I still didn't really want to see the movie. Luckily at my university they made a free screening of it and I decided to go. I thought why not go since it's free.
And wow ! I would have missed this movie if it wasn't for the free screening !
And I would have missed a lot, this movie is one of my favorites !

Actually I don't like trailers much... I mean they are not even the same from one counrty to another so how can it really represent a movie.

I prefer to go to a movie because I like the poster or the director or maybe the actors in it... Posters for me are a lot more important than a trailer. They have to show you what kind of movie it's going to be and possibly tell you a little about the basic story just by looking at it.
they have more impact than a trailer, and it's we see from the streets.

Though maybe it's because I study art history and that I'm kind of use of images and analyzing what they meant...


message 12: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Feb 01, 2009 09:48AM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Allis, the Film Poster is such a great art form! I collect film poster reproductions (if only I could afford originals...sigh...) and an image can reveal a sublime theme or insight: check out the Polish film posters at this site:

message 13: by Heidi (new)

Heidi I definitely won't judge a movie by its trailer-- but I will say that trailers have gotten out of hand. In many cases, especially mediocre comedies, the trailers are better than the actual movies. I still do like watching them-- it's a great way to see what's coming up (then I go home and do some digging).

message 14: by Allysse (new)

Allysse | 5 comments Thanks a lot for the link :D
I didn't know it.

message 15: by George (new)

George | 951 comments I think it's generally a mistake to judge anything merely from one source. Trailers are commercials and are obviously intended to sell the film. Of course, it's obvious enough that the folks making the trailors frequently don't understand the film or at best do understand but don't see the film as commercial or can figure out how to mass market it. How much truth do you expect from a Coca Cola ad or one for pick up trucks? Still, I do think that in many respects, it frequently is possible to judge a particular effort as so much garbage and some as having potential.

However, in all fairness, I tend not to judge films entirely by reviews either. I prefer to read several at the very least. It's clear enough that many reviews are little more than advertisements in their own right, an effort to get a quote or two in newspaper movie ads. No one gets a quote in newspaper ads by panning a film.

message 16: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments George wrote: "However, in all fairness, I tend not to judge films entirely by reviews either. I prefer to read several at the very least. It's clear enough that many reviews are little more than advertisements in their own right, an effort to get a quote or two in newspaper movie ads. No one gets a quote in newspaper ads by panning a film."

Reading several reviews is a good idea, especially if you don't know where a particularly critic is coming from in his/her approach to film. However the notion that critics are more focused on getting quoted in the ads is nonsense. There are reviewers who do that, but the only ones who take those "blurb whores" (as they're known) seriously are the publicists trolling for quotes for turkeys getting panned everywhere else.

Every so often Variety does a round up of those blurbs, and they're hilariously obvious, like calling something the "best film of the year" in January.

message 17: by George (new)

George | 951 comments didn't say they all were, but it's clear even from your own comments that you agree some are. So, where does "nonsense" come in?

message 18: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Ive been in movie theatres where the trailer is truely something unforgetable. Alex mentioned seeing the trailer for "The Shining" as a kid with his mom.

I too remember that trailer. We had gone to the theatre to see "Being There", but we all came away talking about the trailer for that "wierd movie with the bloody elevators" We were all very curious to know more about that movie and anxious to actually go see it when it was finally released.

I also remember the audience reaction the first time the trailer for "American Gigolo" was shown. The audience started laughing uncontrolably at the seeming pretentious of it all.
I also remember the audience reaction to a trailer for a movie dealing with a homosexual love triangle for a turkey called "Making Love"
one letter of the title would flash on screen, begining with "M" and then they would show a scene from the movie, followed by the "A" and another scene; they did this to all the letters and the entire time the audience was howling with laughter. There was poor Kate Jackson (From Charlie's Angels) fighting to save her marriage from her husband's homosexual affair, and the entire audience was laughing hysterically at the pretentious shock-value of the movie.

message 19: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 155 comments George wrote: "didn't say they all were, but it's clear even from your own comments that you agree some are. So, where does "nonsense" come in?"

Because most of them aren't critics at all, but have some Internet outlet or some such that exists solely so they can go on junkets and produce rave quotes.

message 20: by George (last edited Feb 04, 2009 02:12AM) (new)

George | 951 comments Ok, if you prefer to maintain that some of these folks are merely posing as critics, that's not an invalid comment, but my original point was not nonsense as it reflects a reality you are very familiar with however distasteful you find it.

message 21: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments I think most people take those "great movie" quotes with a grain of salt.
They are often smaller regional newspapers from around the country.

If the New York Times reviews a movie, it generally has a lot more weight than the Toledo Tribune or the Des Moines Guardian.

message 22: by Holli (last edited Feb 08, 2009 06:40AM) (new)

Holli I don't judge a movie by its trailer and my boyfriend and I both really enjoy that part of the movie watching experience. What I do hate is how there are invariably 2 or 3 for a comedy (and others but its usually comedies) and after seeing all of've seen every funny part in the movie. Totally ruins it for me. I wish they would go back to making trailers what they used to be...a tease to get you into the theater.

message 23: by Oscar (new)

Oscar | 10 comments It depends on the genre really, and on the film.

I love the original fistful of dollars trailer:

"possibly the most dangerous man who has ever lived"

message 24: by Phillip (last edited Feb 08, 2009 10:20AM) (new)

Phillip | 10555 comments i went to see gran torino yesterday. i had a really bad impression of the film based on the previews (i commented on this on the gran torino thread). the film wasn't perfect, but i liked it a lot more than i thought i would (based on the previews). i think it's a real mistake to judge a film by its preview. they are manipulative, and the director doesn't always have a say in how it is presented.

message 25: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 209 comments I saw DUE DATE this weekend only because there was nothing else to do. Having seen the trailer that did not particularly impress me for several weeks prior, I was not particularly looking forward to the film as they included the only bad acted scene in it, but was very pleasantly surprised by the film. I laughed throughout and would not hesitate to see the film again. Robert Downey Jr. was incredible. I had forgotten how good an actor he is.

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