The 2017 Oscars

The omnipresent chatter in anticipation of the 2017 Oscars is undeniable. For those of you planning on tuning in for the doling out of the highest honours in cinema, you may be preparing for your annual Oscar-nominated movie binge. However, in the face of this monumental and somewhat daunting task, many of us simply opt for the CliffsNotes version – the trailers. To make things simple, there is now a one-stop trailer shop, served with a twist.

Screen Junkies has become notorious for its “Honest Trailers,” an Emmy-nominated parody series that satirizes film and television in mock-trailer style. Premiering on YouTube in 2012, Screen Junkies has become an unofficial third party trailer house, developing a distinct aesthetic largely characterized by their use of music and sound. 

The Honest Trailer for the 2017 Oscars begins as all Honest Trailers do: with a montage of YouTube commenters’ requests for the Honest Trailer in question promptly appearing on the screen, punctuated by cheesy sound design, and followed by the sounds of celluloid-film spinning on a reel before breaking down. Cue cliché trailer narration by Jon Bailey, the infamous acousmetre so closely associated to the emerging trailer genre that it is hard to imagine his voice anywhere else. Next, the Honest Trailer pokes fun at the Oscars, accompanied by music evocative of the academy’s own musical theme.

The trailer proceeds to give a tongue-in-cheek précis of each of the nominees for Best Picture, using music to make a statement about the tone of the films while simultaneously contradicting it with comedic narration. Screen Junkies begins with Arrival, using Hans Zimmer-esque string motifs and brass swells to underscore the intensity of the film. Next, the Honest Trailer takes aim at Lion, pairing the film to a sitar riff, making a general musical connection to the India-centred story. Hell or High Water is illustrated as the outlier in the Best Picture crop, connoted by a shift in tone to blues-rock guitar. Hidden Figures is treated to music that serves to approximate the historical era of the film. Manchester by the Sea is accompanied by delicate, sad piano and light strings that emphasize the tragic theme. The Honest Trailer continues with Moonlight, shifting to darker, more resonant piano playing interrupted by dinging as Screen Junkies checks off the boxes to what makes this film Oscar worthy. The smooth musical transition into Fences replaces piano for orchestral strings, keeping with the dramatic tone from the previous trailer. The penultimate Hacksaw Ridge begins with the beating of a single bass drum and changes pace to over the top dramatic strings, underplaying the excessive violence of the film in tandem with narration. Finally, enter La La Land; the contemporary jazz musical swings with full brass, smooth saxophone, and tasty percussion. Bailey’s voice is replaced by that of Brock Baker, who impersonates Donald Trump as he imagines what the President of the United States might tweet during Sunday’s award ceremony – some compulsory political satire that doubles as commentary on the intensely politicized academy.

The Honest Trailer on the 2017 Oscars is a poignant, fun take on an awards ceremony that is often criticized for taking itself too seriously. This particular trailer is the epitome of the Honest Trailer aesthetic, taking full advantage of abrupt musical cuts and transitions, peppered with sound effects, and narrated with witty cynicism. The music in the trailer is intentionally hyperbolic, and highlights the trailer tropes we have come to expect from Hollywood.

Screen Junkies has cultivated an impressive following on YouTube. The pop culture relevance of the Honest Trailers series is irrefutable. At the time of this publication, the 2017 Oscars Honest Trailer has amassed over 2 million views, easily dwarfing the 43,000 views of the 2017 Oscars official trailer. The academy-sanctioned trailer is musically much simpler than the Screen Junkies equivalent, lazily underscored by “Good Time Good Life” by Banzai featuring Erin Bowman.

The Honest Trailers series have achieved critical and mainstream success, perhaps reflecting a trend in digital media consumption away from the consecrated content of the academy towards something more, well, honest.


- Andrew Sproule