I live in California, so on June 15th, I watched some of my fellow (hopefully) vaccinated West Coasters dramatically rip off their masks and head out to long-awaited Margarita nights, Six Flags trips, or movies on the big screen. I myself took a trip to El Cerrito’s Rialto Cinemas with my family to see In the Heights, relishing the ten minutes of movie trailers in the beginning. It’s always been me and my mom’s favorite part of the trip to the movie theater– something about the physical enormity of the screen paired with deluxe speakers makes us emotional, so much so that we’re usually in tears before the movie even starts. When the pandemic began early last year, I felt deprived of in-person entertainment and subsequently resorted to watching my favorite previews on YouTube whenever I was desperate for creative inspiration. In those first few months of quarantine, when the world was falling apart and my brain was fried from Zoom school, I completely immersed myself in the world of movie trailers, night after night.
Nowadays, the pandemic is (sort of) winding down, and I find myself spending more and more time outside, getting my daily adrenaline rush in by watching feature-length films instead of the two minute montages I played on repeat throughout the tumult of last year. However, in the hopes that others might be looking for inspiration in the same places I do, I’ve decided to list out six of my favorite film and television trailers, all with some additional commentary. So, without further ado, here is what I’ve had religiously on repeat ever since the world went to shit.
Alfonso Cuarón’s hauntingly memorable and semi-autobiographical film Roma took home both the Cinematography and International Feature Film prizes at the 91st Academy Awards. The official trailer, released two years ago by Netflix, simultaneously gives nothing away while introducing the audience to a black and white world tinged with nostalgia, dog shit, and an engaging yellow font. Roma’s trailer relies on imagery rather than dialogue (there is no background narrator hyping up the story); as Pink Floyd’s wordless song The Great Gig in the Sky culminates musically, the visuals become more frantic: police with shields, field fires, shards of hail hitting the ground, and children demanding a beach trip are peppered across the screen. The brilliance of Roma’s trailer is in how little plot it gives away to the audience– it is through vivid imagery alone that we are lured into joining Cleo on her epic odyssey.
I have to admit, I’ve never actually seen Uncut Gems, the 2019 breakout crime thriller starring Adam Sandler as a charming leather-blazer-wearing jeweller with a passion for sticky situations involving opals and, apparently, Idina Menzel. To be honest, it’s one of those situations where the trailer is so fantastic that it may actually eclipse the full-length film altogether, so I’ve stayed clear of pressing play and instead spent the first couple months of COVID lockdown replaying the official trailer, released by A24. It has everything you could ever want in a preview — deliciously timed humor, an invigorating, almost pulsating, soundtrack, and an eye-grabbingly green, purple, and tinted blue color scheme. You simply can’t tear your eyes away from the screen while Adam Sandler is so expertly commanding it.
I was raised by an Indian mother, so obviously the late Princess Diana is very important to me. The team behind The Crown, Netflix’s smash-hit drama about the royal family, releases top-notch previews for each new season, but it is the trailer for season 4 that really hits the spot for me. A stirring remix of How Soon is Now, an 80’s classic originally by The Smiths, sets the tone for a super dramatic decade of British royal history. We finally catch a glimpse of doe-eyed Emma Corrin as Diana Spencer, a prophetic Margaret remains pessimistic about the future, and Olivia Coleman gives some of her best icy Elizabethan stares. This particular trailer does a great job of mixing sound to emphasize certain lyrics– I am the son and heir of nothing in particular speaks volumes about the contentious Britain that Charles is eager to inherit, with Diana reluctantly by his side.
In my opinion, The Last Black Man in San Francisco experienced one of the worst Oscar snubs in history. It’s a remarkable film; both a stunning cinematographic achievement as well as a meditation on the concept of home in an area riddled with gentrification and a housing crisis. The trailer begins with soul-stirring low strings and a cutting monologue, which, paired with old San Franciscan victorians and skateboards flying down steep streets, will bring tears to your eyes. Composer Emile Mosseri’s sweepingly frenzied score can be felt in your very core– it encapsulates both the dreaminess and anguish which exist painfully together in Last Man.
Confused about all the hype surrounding Ari Aster’s second A24 horror film? Two words: Daylight. Horror. Oh, and Florence Pugh as a reigning emo flower queen, of course. The official trailer shines in its impeccable timing and evocative soundtrack (classic off-key violin!), which never fails to send shivers up my spine at 0:53. My only problem? It gives too much of the plot away. Movie trailers– especially horror movie trailers– must find a balance between expertly enticing an audience without spoiling the best parts, and this one unnecessarily throws in some of the movie’s finest moments (Dani’s airplane crying transition, or Christian’s warped shrooms trip). For this reason, I highly recommend watching the film Midsommar before you watch the official trailer, though I will warn you– it’s a disturbing-ass movie!
The second installment in Mike Flanagan’s Haunting anthology was released by Netflix in late 2020, and the 80’s/Victorian-era-ghost-story-turned-tragic-cottage-core- queer-love-story made it a great pandemic watch for those of us looking to escape reality for a little bit. The official trailer is not super memorable– it reads like a classic horror movie preview, with dramatic music and creepy one-liners given by even creepier children. However, the official teaser trailer is fantastic. A spine-chilling rendition of O’ Willow Waly (sung in an eerily familiar Peppa Pig voice) underlays scenes of grandiose horror, which will be familiar to fans of Flanagan’s earlier work on Hill House. A quick PSA: Bly Manor will emotionally rip you to shreds, but the clean-cut storytelling and authentic representation of queer and interacial relationships in the horror genre make it worth the watch.
Leela Kiyawat is a seventeen year old award-winning playwright and theater artist from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been produced with Playground SF, the Ashby Stage, the Youth Uproar Theatre Company, and TheatreFirst, among others. She loves FKA Twigs, goldfish crackers, and riding the BART train.
More of Leela Kiyawat’s work in Mixed Mag:
Diverse Theater Programs Are a Must (Issue 6)