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Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week, we pay a visit to a historic comedy venue, live on the road to try to hit it big, save the world, catch the latest by Oscar-caliber animators, and get ripped.

The Comedy Store

Director Mike Binder knows what it takes to be one of the best on the small stage.

This documentary series brings to life the legends, heartbreak and history created at The Comedy Store, which over the past 47 years has launched the careers of a breathtaking array of stars. As a Comedy Store alum, former stand-up comic Binder spotlights one of pop culture’s great laboratories with never-before-seen footage and incisive, emotional interviews with some of the biggest names in comedy.

I’m always fascinated when I hear comedians talking about when they “got passed” at The Comedy Store. The preciousness with which they talk about it makes it seem like they passed the bar instead of getting the chance to perform their tight five minutes. Still, to get in front of people to make them giggle, titter, or chuckle is a skill, and this feels like an easy, breezy way to spend a couple of hours. The vets, the relative newbies, it’s an impressive roster of talking heads.

After So Many Days

Directors Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack aren’t just filmmakers, they’re also the entire story.

After a decade of making music together, Jim and Sam, a recently married singer/songwriter duo from Los Angeles, were not the conventionally successful band they hoped they’d be. Feeling stuck and anxious about their future, the duo made a spontaneous decision to go “all in,” making a pact to play one show every day for a year. With suitcases and a guitar, the troubadours ventured out for a 365-day tour down unexplored roads and onto unexpected stages, bringing their music to new audiences throughout 14 different countries. After So Many Days, is an intimate front row seat to the highs and lows of what it’s like for two people to pursue a dream, together.

It’s the rise and grind of the road that makes this so lovely. These kids look like they’re good people, want to make it as big as the world will let them be, and, perhaps more poignantly, this is a story that, until COVID hit, was playing out every single night. It’s not an original story, but these are the kinds of narratives that give me hope. I you believe in what you’re doing, and are willing to give it all you have, you’ll at least be blessed with a great story no matter what “goal” is ultimately reached. I need inspiration, you need inspiration, and there looks to be plenty to go around here.

I Am Greta

Director Nathan Grossman is giving us some perspective on Greta Thunberg.

The story of teenage climate activist #GretaThunberg is told through compelling, never-before-seen footage in this intimate documentary from Swedish director Nathan Grossman. Starting with her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament, Grossman follows Greta—a shy student with Asperger’s—in her rise to prominence and her galvanizing global impact as she sparks school strikes around the world. The film culminates with her extraordinary wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Where normally figures like Thunberg are given the kind of cause célèbre media treatment, the activist has proven to not go quietly when it comes to environmental activism. She’s “galvanizing” to be sure, but why? Because what she’s telling us about climate change has now been politically charged, and not addressed in a way that puts facts ahead of political fanfare, the message to many has been muddled. The trailer deftly positions this as a story about her experience, her perceptions. It makes this a narrative about how she has overcome not just her own personal battles but, also, how she has handled being impugned by her critics.

Wolfwalkers

How are not talking more about director Tomm Moore and co-director Ross Stewart’s latest?

In a time of superstition and magic, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn Goodfellowe, journeys to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last wolf pack. While exploring the forbidden lands outside the city walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl, Mebh, a member of a mysterious tribe rumored to have the ability to transform into wolves by night. As they search for Mebh’s missing mother, Robyn uncovers a secret that draws her further into the enchanted world of the Wolfwalkers and risks turning into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

Moore has not only enjoyed two Academy Award nominations the films Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kellsbut this movie is going to have Sean Bean and that, to me, means a third nom is all but a lock. Still, what’s here is just sumptuous. The animation is lovely, and it feels like it hearkens back to a unique method of telling a story through animation. The level of creativity and confidence needed to think differently when the marketplace is dominated and rewards Pixar or any number of Despicable Me entries must be immense, but I haven’t seen a more self-assured effort this year than this.

Bigorexia

Director Vlad Yudin is back with more content about getting huge.

Bigorexia explores the physical and psychological depths of Muscle Dysmorphia through the eyes of five subjects in the bodybuilding industry. Featuring Zac Aynsley, Janae Kroc, Craig Golias, Kirill Tereshin, and Amazonka among others – Bigorexia uncovers the inner most details of how this widespread disorder changes every element of a person’s lifestyle and includes discussions with athletes, doctors, and scientists around the world.

Yudin is a director not unlike Lloyd Kaufman. Whereas Kaufman has made a name for himself cranking out schlocky horror films (some I would consider cinematic classics), Yudin pumps out documentaries that focus on the bodybuilding world. This doesn’t look to rewrite any chapter of what it takes to get pumped up but, interestingly, and heartbreakingly, we see the effects of what happens when trying to defy genetics goes beyond diet and hard work. It’s a visual rubberneck to be sure, and I’m dialed in to what Yudin putting down.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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