It’s tough to think of an art form as purely aerodynamic as the movie trailer. It is, after all, cinema boiled down to its purest elements: the editor must take a two hour motion picture (which has itself been carved out of dozens of hours of dailies) and distill it to a two-minute version of itself, retaining the flavor and some semblance of narrative, but with every ounce of fat stripped clean. If a movie is a station wagon — sturdy, dependable, roomy enough to fit everything you need — then a trailer is a Formula One racer, built to hurtle you where you need to go as quickly as possible.
It makes perfect sense, then, that the Brattle has turned its annual Trailer Treats festival into the cinematic equivalent of a soap box derby: the Trailer Smackdown. Each year, the brain trust at the beloved movie house cooks up a title for a non-existent film, along with a list of potential genres, characters, locations, and actions. These elements are then picked up by the best and brightest of the local film scene, who use them to cook up the craziest and most enticing fictional trailer they can. The titles themselves are deliberately vague — Ten, Union Street, John Smith — which leads to a dazzlingly eclectic range of entries. The trailers are then put up to an audience vote: winner takes a cash prize, while the runner up receives a cooler of lovingly curated dollar store ephemera.
The Smackdown, of course, is just the centerpiece of a larger celebration. There will also be a program of the most insane real trailers the Brattle can get their hands on, along with a downhome DJ set, a catered barbecue buffet, and, inevitably, some classic Bugs Bunny action. All in all, it’s some of the most fun you can have watching ads. In closing, I will leave you with the winner of last year’s Trailer Smackdown, which — full disclosure — was co-written and directed by Your Humble Narrator.
Tickets and screening info available here