Thursday, March 20, 2014

That whimsical AIDS romp for your tablet

I haven't seen Dallas Buyers Club, but I do know that it's about a guy trying not to die of AIDS.

Which makes it the perfect fodder for an afternoon of casual tablet watching and in-movie fact-checking, right?

A Matthew McConaughey more or less at this stage of AIDS-related decimation is the star of a new ad I've been seeing on Hulu for Google Play, which focuses on a feature I think I should take credit for because I thought of it a good ten years ago: the ability to touch-pause a movie and read a fact sheet about the person you're seeing on screen. (My version didn't require pausing, and was more like a Pop-Up Video-style bubble, so I probably won't get around to actually suing.)

It's a cool feature, to be sure, but I can't get over how funny a choice Dallas Buyers Club is to advertise it.

I suppose it's a cheerier choice than, say, 12 Years a Slave, if you're looking to advertise recent award winners (as this ad chooses explicitly to do by mentioning that Dallas Buyers Club "and other award winners" are available on Google Play). But only compared to something so raw and intense could DBC be considered cheery, I imagine.

Maybe they first thought of Gravity as a better choice, then laughed at the absurdity of watching such an opus on a tablet or smartphone. Or maybe the star had to give permission to use his likeness, and McConaughey was the only one who would do it.

To give some perspective on why this choice surprises me, I immediately thought of how Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the movie Apple plastered all over its iPods at the time I got my first one back at Christmas of 2006. The fact that the device could play movies was a selling point they were pushing particularly hard, and what better way to encapsulate the innate fun and whimsy of an iPod than to show the mug of Captain Jack Sparrow himself on the box of every iPod you sold? Of course, that movie was a dud, but it was what the movie represented -- joy, mischief -- that mattered more than its quality.

Now, Google is definitely aware of this advertising attitude in its spots for Google Play featuring McConaughey and Buyers Club, as probably the movie's most light-hearted scene is showcased here. McConaughey and Jennifer Garner sit across a table from each other, joking and basking in at least the ironic charm being proffered by Ron Woodroof under the circumstances.

Those circumstances being, you know, his gaunt face and approaching death by way of Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Don't confuse my writing this post as a criticism of Google. This is a hip, progressive choice of a movie to advertise the functionality of your technology, one that represents a bold resistance to the notion of playing it safe. Google ought to be commended for associating itself with a movie that features not only AIDS, but also a trans woman.

I do, however, also think there might be something sort of insensitive about suggesting that viewers pause a dramatic heavyweight like Dallas Buyers Club in order to see what amounts to an on-screen IMDB entry for its star -- even during one of its lightest scenes.

I mean, isn't something frivolous like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest a lot more appropriate place to do something like that?

Of course, 2013 was blessedly without an entry into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise -- no certainty, given that the two-year interval since On Stranger Tides would have been about the perfect time to bring along Pirates 5. In the absence of such a film, I would have expected Google to choose something like Thor: The Dark World to sell the product, given that they also needed something that had only just come to video.

Instead, it was Dallas Buyers Club -- a much darker world than Dark World.

However, that a corporate giant would choose Dallas Buyers Club as its envoy makes that darker world just a little bit lighter.


Travis McClain said...

I'm a fan of things like commentary tracks, and while I like the idea of pop-up text trivia, I've yet to really experience one of those that I actually found interesting. I'm less likely to want to interrupt a movie to find out something, though I can easily see the appeal for critics and reviewers if screeners were made available using this app.

Not, of course, that anyone is ever gonna send me one.

Vancetastic said...

When I see someone in a movie and can't place him or her, I have a need to find out where I know him or her from that's only quenchable by looking it up. This feature would help with that, but not enough to make me convince me to try a new platform altogether.