2007 Calvin Awards: Best Trailer

February 12, 2007

Samuel L. tries the old 'underwear inspector' line.

In the modern era, the trailer is the most important aspect of the marketing phase of a film production. Distributors have between 30 and 120 seconds to demonstrate to consumers that they would be well served to get up off the couch and head out to the local cineplex. With so many new avenues creating competition for how a consumer may spend their free time, studios are under an unprecedented amount of pressure to prove to the public that there is more out there than videogames, TiVos, and TV on DVD. The old standard of time burglars uses trailers as the primary way to remain relevant with a new, media-saturated generation. Since 2002, we have lauded the commercials we believe to have provided the most entertainment in two minutes or less.

Past winners include Sin City, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Matrix Reloaded, Comedian, and Jarhead. This eclectic list demonstrates that commercial viability is not always our preference. Something unique, such as Comedian's voice-over shenanigans, may bewitch us just as easily as a certain blockbuster from Peter Jackson or the Wachowski Brothers. We like what we like and make no apologies for it. Keeping this in mind, here is another diversified batch of trailers we consider to be the ten best of calendar 2006.

If you own an Internet connection, you are all too well aware of what Samuel L. Jackson has had enough of having on his plane. From the moment they went live, no person with access to a television could miss the onslaught of clever ads supporting the sublimely titled Snakes on a Plane. While BOP acknowledges it's valid to be sick and tired of anything relating to the movie, that saturation in no way changes the fact that the trailer is fan-freakin-tastic. This is an old school celebration of B-movie brilliance, and it is not the only one we gave strong consideration for the top ten. Grindhouse barely missed being selected for similar reasons. Our staff adores this return to honest marketing, a celebration of the straightforward, the surface level. Snakes on a Plane's trailer delivers exactly the same thing the movie itself does – a satisfying snippet of titular thrills. We recognize that the movie was a financial disappointment and its 15 minutes of fame have long since expired, but we applaud the accomplishment nonetheless.

Borat is the polar opposite of Snakes on a Plane in terms of expectations relative to actual performance. In the weeks leading up to the movie's release, wagging tongues and short-sighted analysts believed (wanted to believe?) that Sacha Baron Cohen's ambitious, reality-esque production would fail. This opinion ignored the central selling point of Borat. The trailer was OUTstanding. There were different variations. My personal favorite featured an uncomfortable dinner engagement between the in-character actor and three genteel southern couples. You know the one I mean. Borat manages to inflate the egos of four people before administering a devastating shiv to the host's wife. The awkward silence and angry looks exchanged were perfect foreshadowing of what to expect from the movie itself. Borat was chosen the second biggest box office story of 2006 by our staff and we mirror that lofty performance with a second place selection in the category of Best Trailer.

Not all of the trailers we select wind up receiving theatrical release in that calendar year. Our third and fourth place finishers fit into this category. As was mentioned earlier, BOP loved Frank Miller's visual aesthetics in Sin City; therefore, it's unsurprising that we are similarly dazzled by 300. This Spartans-fighting-a-lost-cause epic promises to be an atmospheric, visually orgasmic gladiator movie, making it the must-see movie of 2007 for gay men. For the rest of us, the trailer promises a satisfying, novel pre-historic comic book adaptation. Given the presence of Miller, that's a tantalizing proposition.

The Pixar coalition at BOP throws their weight around every year. This is the fourth consecutive year that we lauded one of the new Disney entity's clips. Ratatouille is a bit zanier than prior outings, self-consciously dialing down the story in exchange for more giggles. The premise of a rat obsessed with fine dining has always struck our staff as a must-watch entertainment. It is satisfying for all of us to watch a hilarious trailer wherein the heroic rodent makes a mad scramble across the floor of a five-star restaurant in order to bag a few choice morsels. Many critics felt that Cars lacked that oomph of prior Pixar works, and it appears the studio has taken these concerns to heart. Ratatouille's trailer promises the type of laughs we haven't seen from the studio since Toy Story 2. This makes it a worthy choice for the fourth Best Trailer of the year.

The Devil Wears Prada, our fifth place entrant, succeeds due to its daringly minimalist approach to marketing. Rather than trying to jam together the best bits from the entire movie, a single sequence is highlighted. The result is a masterful introduction to the character of Miranda Priestly. We bear witness to her whispery, understated witness for the first time just as the movie's lead character, Andy Sachs, does. The result is that we share in her trepidation, confusion and barely contained amusement. The movie wound up being one of the biggest success stories of 2006, exemplifying why it's a worth choice for a top five finish in the Best Trailer category.

Our sixth and seventh place nominees represent an expected selection as well as a surprising one. The BOP staff's love of all things Simpsons is well documented. In point of fact, the only real surprise here is that the movie trailer is not higher placed among our selections. The slapstick theatrics of Homer hanging from a construction ball might have proved too zany for some of our more cerebral fans of the show. This writer, however, was sold by the line, "This film is not yet rated." I voted it significantly higher than some of my peers; however, I was with the group on Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. All of us had a difficult time maintaining a straight face when the inimitable Gary Cole trapped his son in a car with a cougar. All of us had Driver's Ed in high school, but none of us ever remember that particular lesson.

Speaking of people BOP loves, some of our critics have argued that we double as a Simon Pegg fan site. While we anxiously await the release of Spaced on DVD in region one format, we as a group have decided to entertain ourselves with repeated viewings of the trailer for his latest outing, Hot Fuzz. Pegg and Edgar Wright caught lightning in a bottle with Shaun of the Dead, an instant classic. Whereas that production was a celebration of the works of zombie master George A. Romero, Hot Fuzz promises to be an eclectic new spin on the buddy cop genre. Stating the obvious, BOP has the calendar circled for its release date two months and a day from now. You should probably expect the 2008 Calvins to mention it a time or two. It seems inevitable.

Rounding out our top ten list for Best Trailers are polar opposite productions, Night at the Museum and The Black Dahlia. The latter title's presence should not surprise frequent visitors to the site. The advertising spots tricked us into voting it the most anticipated title out of all fall releases. That was a bit of a mistake. The sleek and mysterious commercials tricked us into believing a seedy murder mystery would ensue. Oops. Note to Universal Pictures: fool us once, well, you know the rest. Night at the Museum, on the other hand, is a trailer that offered the promise of a hilarious, CGI-intensive romp featuring some of the legends of comedy. Judging by the movie's likely finish as one of the top three performers of 2006, we were not the only ones intrigued by the notion. Night at the Museum might be a bit of a bland choice, but our job here is not to surprise. It's to get the choices right. A dinosaur skeleton chasing Ben Stiller earns such attention. We would have placed it higher on the list if the skeleton had caught up to Stiller and eaten him. Ah well, there's always the sequel.

Finishing just outside the top ten are The Departed, Spider-Man 3, Little Miss Sunshine, the aforementioned Grindhouse, The Last Mimzy, Happy Feet, The Descent, Poseidon, Children of Men and Accepted. BOP wants to give a special shout out to Accepted for having the best trailer moment of 2006, "Ask me about my wiener!" (David Mumpower/BOP)

Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 Snakes on a Plane 43
2(tie) Borat 33
2(tie) 300 33
4 Ratatouille 30
5 The Devil Wears Prada 24
6 The Simpsons Movie 22
7 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby 17
8 Hot Fuzz 16
9 Night At the Museum 15
10(tie) The Black Dahlia 13
10(tie) The Departed 13

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