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All posts by Daniel DiStefano

A Brief History of Film Trailers, or: Turns Out This Post Is Not About Peter Orner

In this way, trailers are wonderful Schrodinger’s Catnip: the trailer is a box, the film is the cat inside, and seeing the film opens the box to discover that cat dead or alive, a tanking 0% on RottenTomatoes or a Critic’s Pick in the New York Times. Just watching that good trailer again and again, though, the cat always lives, the movie is irrelevant, and the experience of the trailer is a repeatable, elusively changing experience. This, I think, is comparable to the feeling I get when writing early drafts: everything is borderline incoherent, but still raw, there are images that gnarl their way to the foreground, and scenes are skeletal with key moments of dialogue belted out by a character you don’t really know yet. Maybe that’s why, on particularly dry writing days, I wind up rewatching some of my favorite trailers, triggering a kind of a Pavlovian response: Okay, Brain, get off your ass and start figuring out how we get from that image to that sound bite.

A Brief History of Sorrows

On March 5, 2013, in a sparse room of MoMA PS1, atop a perpetually foggy stage and standing before a packed crowd of predominantly white hipster 20-and-30-somethings, The National played their song “Sorrow” 105 consecutive times in a performance lasting over six straight hours. This was not their idea, but rather was conceived by artist Ragnar Kjartansson as a “durational performance” entitled A Lot of Sorrow, which continued his exploration of repetitive performance as creating a “sculptural presence within sound.” Played without irony, the indie-pop song’s repetition pinged from sad to comical over the hours, maddening to hypnotizing.