approved for all audiences

a critical and rhetorical look at the art and artifice of the movie trailer

7.19.2006

General Admission

Just before the heavily anticipated arrival of Y2K I remember jotting down a list of “maligned late-late 20th century art forms” which included the t-shirt and the website, among several others. Though I had seen hundreds, if not thousands, of 150-second movie trailers at that point in time, I don’t recall including them on the list.

No doubt, the “art of the trailer” had already enjoyed a significant and substantial history by the year 2000, but for whatever reason I didn’t yet feel that the trailer had anything to say worth repeating. In a July 2002 article for the New York Times - “The 150-Second Sell, Take 34” - Marshall Stella observed that “pretentiousness is not an affliction common to trailer editors” and that “trailer editing is viewed by the general population, and even some in the film industry, as hackwork”. I suppose I shared that limited view of the trailer’s wider cultural influence. After all, a trailer is just an advertisement for a movie, right?

Cut to: January 2006. While waiting for the “feature presentation” - and admittedly enjoying what is frequently my favorite aspect of the theatre-going experience – I saw a trailer that confirmed what had become a growing suspicion about the value of trailers in general. Hardly a few seconds into the preview for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming Marie Antoinette, I not only knew that trailers had undoubtedly become an art unto themselves, but that I could look forward to a point in the near future when they would be more interesting than the movies they advertise.

Before we get underway, I should mention a few things…

Aside from my growing obsession with trailers, I am starting this blog as a means to fulfill the requirements for my participation in ENGL802 – The Theory and Practice of Rhetoric – at Trinity College. Though I will use some of what I learned from that course to discuss different elements of the trailer and its means of persuasion, I am hoping to make this blog accessible to a wider audience than my professor and classmates, with the possibility of continuing it after I’ve completed the assignment.

I hope to add links to the trailers discussed as a sort of blogroll at right, and to embed the trailers within my posts where necessary, but all of the trailers discussed can be found at the following del.icio.us page, or, more directly, at apple.com's movie trailers page.

To my classmates: I elected to present my final paper as a blog, not simply for ease of access to the source material, but also for the possibility of taking advantage of the interactivity that a blog offers. In other words: commentsCommentsCOMMENTS. Please feel free to tell me what you think as things progress.

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