Friday, April 10, 2015

Netflix spoiler stills

I'm sure you've noticed that when a movie is loading on Netflix, a still from that movie accompanies the red progress circle spinning in the middle of the screen. It's a snapshot chosen, one would assume, to encapsulate what this movie is about and get you in the right frame of mind for watching it.

They are almost never a typical production still, the kind you'd get with a press packet. No, they seem to be a bit more random and quirky than that.

Someone is choosing these stills. Whoever it is, I want that job, because he or she sucks at it.

Twice now I have watched a movie on Netflix that had some key part of the plot spoiled by the still they chose to represent the movie. Twice is enough to write something about it here.

I think you'd agree that a still like this should be chosen carefully, so as not to give away anything crucial. At the very least it should follow the logic of those DVD menu screens that run through a looping ten-second montage of events from the movie, which usually don't tell you anything you wouldn't otherwise want to know. (Usually.)

Re-Animator was the offender the other night. When Re-Animator is loading up, Netflix shows you this (SPOILER ALERT):

Very strong on giving you a sense of what the movie is about. Not so strong on keeping elements of the plot a secret.

This still is from the last 20 or 30 minutes of the film. Without it, you might not know that this particular character gets decapitated during the course of the film's events. You might not care that you know, but you know, and Netflix didn't give you the chance to opt out of that knowledge.

Now, even though this is the occurrence that inspired me to write this post, it may be a particularly poor example in the sense that the poster above actually gives away this information. It's a drawing of the character and not a picture, so you might not put two and two together like a picture would help you do, but still, the poster is making no effort to keep the fate of this character a secret. So be it.

This, then, is a better example, and I suppose in the spirit of the very thing I am talking about here, it requires a SPOILER WARNING as well. So, read no further if you want nothing spoiled about the documentary Unhung Hero.

Here is what Netflix offers you while Unhung Hero is spinning up:

This is almost literally the last shot of the movie. It shows our protagonist, Patrick Moote, with his arm draped around the shoulder of a woman he met earlier in a shop selling sex toys. On a side note, him having a date with this girl is one of several parts of this movie I suspect might have been staged, to give it a serendipitously positive ending. But the movie worked quite well for me overall, so I'm forgiving it those (potential) sins.

The reasons why this is a poor still to choose from Unhung Hero are twofold:

1) It doesn't indicate anything meaningful about a guy grappling with the fact that he may have a smaller than average penis;

2) It reveals that things work out okay for him, even though the whole movie is about an emotional journey kicked off when his girlfriend publicly rejected his marriage proposal on a sporting event jumbotron -- blaming his small penis for why she didn't want to marry him.

The fact that my internet kept dropping when I watched Unhung Hero, meaning I had to load it up at multiple junctures of the movie, made the still even more problematic. We meet the girl pictured here early on in the movie, when Patrick surreptitiously tries to record his conversation with her at the sex toy shop, something her boss isn't having any of. At the time, we have no idea that she's going to re-enter the narrative, and in fact, she ends up pissed off at him because he gets her in trouble.

So reluanching this movie and seeing this still multiple times tells us in no uncertain terms that she will reappear, that she will become a potential romantic partner for him, and that if someone with her button-nosed cuteness is into him, then the size of his penis must not matter after all. The look of unambiguous contentment on Moote's face leaves no doubt about his triumph over his own fears of inadequacy. And the movie does derive much of its drama from the question of how things will turn out for Patrick, so this is problematic indeed.

My conclusion is that whoever does actually do this at Netflix does not take the task very seriously. That's a shame, because I think it would be a super fun endeavor for any true cinephile to undertake -- to review the movie for that one perfect image that captures its themes, tone and content, without spoiling anything.

Just give me that chance, Netflix. You don't even have to pay me if you don't want to. Just knowing I'm doing a service for other unsuspecting cinephiles would be payment enough.

No comments: