Author Topic: Black Mirror  (Read 3520 times)

Bondo

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #70 on: December 28, 2018, 03:48:50 PM »
Bandersnatch might be my new number one with a bullet. Does a great job simulating the experience of a choose your adventure book, delivering diverse and interesting endings. I guess it's a question of whether narrative invention weighs more heavily than social message which others have certainly done more potently.

1SO

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #71 on: June 06, 2019, 12:21:20 AM »
Season 5

Striking Vipers
The writing is smart and doesn't dodge the more interesting questions. MVP director Own Harris now has a nice little trilogy of episodes. (He did "Be Right Back" and "San Junipero".) The show at its best usually finds a way to punch you hard, but this creates more of an uneasy feeling, capturing sexual confusion without taking a hard stance one way or the other. There's also some good, uncomfortable humor (like a line about a polar bear.)


Smithereens
From the director of "Hated in the Nation" - one of my Top 3 episodes - this one doesn't end right, creating the opposite feeling of a typical Black Mirror episode. (Could've used a little "Shut Up and Dance".) However, it's quite a nail-biting ride to that rough ending thanks to tension sustained through events spiraling out of control and the right amount of ambiguity towards Andrew Scott's character. Scott meanwhile is commanding in the difficult central performance.


Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
A lot of hatred on the internet for this one, and I'm kind of feeling it as the episode settles into the bigger picture of the series. An episode for the YA set, with a goofy tone that takes all the bite out of the dark portrait of a pop singer as nothing more than product to be controlled. I didn't mind Miley Cyrus and her variation of NIN's "Head Like a Hole" is inspired reframing, but director Anne Sewitsky (Happy Happy) doesn't grasp the feel of the series, and the tone is all over the place, rarely landing in a good spot.
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Bondo

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #72 on: June 10, 2019, 06:34:24 PM »
I felt the understanding of sexuality in Striking Vipers was at least a little limited. Or it doesn't dive deep enough into the identity of the characters to fully work.

As a whole, the trio felt like a pretty big miss.

Beavermoose

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #73 on: June 10, 2019, 09:27:01 PM »
I felt the understanding of sexuality in Striking Vipers was at least a little limited. Or it doesn't dive deep enough into the identity of the characters to fully work.


I mean isn't it sort of saying that sexuality is not clearly definable.
I like that message.

oldkid

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #74 on: June 11, 2019, 04:34:01 PM »
I think I liked Smithereens the best.  There is real drama, real character only to be used to drive home a flacid moral.   Much ado about nothing, indeed.

Which is what I felt about the trio in general, I guess.  Striking Vipers was interesting, but I guess I wish they had explored more of the potential issues.  It took a while to say something interesting, but they could have taken that time to say more.

Again, Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too seems more about Miley Cyrus than anything else.  The tech wasnít explored or believable, and the teenage characters werenít all that interesting.

These three werenít horrible, but they werenít that engaging, either.
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FLYmeatwad

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #75 on: July 14, 2019, 01:46:11 PM »
I've now caught up on Black Mirror, though I would not consider myself a Mirrorer at this point, but will likely watch whatever else gets released if they keep getting pulls like Miley. Might do a full on ranking later, still need to think that over. I had watched the first two seasons when they talked about them on SVU, and never took to them, didn't bother with the holiday special and then stopped until like a month ago where I worked my way through the rest, for context. I did watch Bandersnatch when that came out though, which I guess is what made me think of checking it out before Cyrus inspired me to catch up. This post will be about this new season though, assuming there's just the three episodes. Writing about them in reverse order, I guess.

Not sure any of them did all that much for me, though I liked the first half of the Miley episode and the way it bounced between the two stories, though I found it more interesting when the controlled doll was being used as a means of exploring the death of the mother and social adjustment of moving/distance of the father. Even could have been interesting when they got to the house and pulled the plug, but it just kind of went in the safest way possible, which was a bummer. Definitely agree that it felt 'about' showcasing Miley, which I'm all about, but didn't really need, as I have known for a while that Miley is great, obvi.

The Uber one was, as other have said, maybe the strongest of the bunch, though I wish it had more Topher Grace. Another example of where the set up was more compelling than the payoff. It was a good twist on the growing trend of Uber abductions, situating it how it did with perspective, though it also doesn't take on big tech or that culture in a way one would want, but perhaps that was already covered in the Star Trek episode. Idk, like I said, it was fine.

Striking Vipers was also alright, but the episode I probably had the most problems with on a few different levels. The sexuality, to me, does feel underexplored, even if I admire the decision to go ambiguous at the end (not really in the way I saw it, as it was pretty clear that when they kissed and the friend said he didn't feel anything, which prompted Mackie to also say he didn't after a pause, the expression he had seemed to imply that, while the friend probably didn't feel anything, Mackie's character almost certainly did.), and then there's the whole notion that I don't think the sexual functionality would be built in to a fighting game like that, especially one that employs a more anime/SF4 aesthetic and would theoretically be targeted at teens. Maybe something like an MMO-The Sims thing, though not the actual Sims Online, not that I played that very much, and I'm forgetting how bloody it got in the beginning, but there's no way the ESRB slaps that with an M when it's so easy for people to just CINECAST!, it's an auto A/O in any world, and those games don't hit market or wouldn't have the production value that this one seems to have, even when you account for it being a future world. Silly.

Tangential note, read an article a few weeks back that had the headline: "Want arms like Anthony Mackie? Here's his routine" And I never associated Mackie with having huge arms or bis/tris, so this episode didn't really change that, but it was a good article and he seemed to have solid tips.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #76 on: October 19, 2019, 10:59:14 AM »
Seasons 1 & 2

Season 1

The National Anthem

What a messed up way to start a show. The princess of the royal family is kidnapped and the demand of the kidnapper is that the Prime Minister, Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear), have intercourse with a pig on live TV. Law enforcement starts hunting for the princess but as time ticks on, the reality of what may have to happen becomes more and more real.

Right out of the gate Black Mirror leaps into the offensive and taboo, but it is perhaps not as salacious and exploitative as it might appear at first glance. The episode is making a strong statement about the growing escalation of what is considered okay to broadcast and what people will willingly watch out of morbid curiosity. No one has to turn into the program and yet everyone is glued to the sets to see if the prime minister will go through with it.

And as crazy as it sounds for a political figure to have sex with a pig, less than five years later Prime Minister David Cameron would be accused of sticking his member inside the mouth of a dead pig during his college years. It was never corroborated, but the media zoo (pun intended) that followed was not unlike the one depicted here: people obsessed over something taboo that questions if anything will be considered indecent anymore.

It also sets the tone of Black Mirror as a series. The question that lingers for society as it recovers from the wake of this story is ďwhere do we go from here?Ē Is society so far gone as to be irredeemable? Has darkness won the day? Has our obsession with technology taken us to a place we can no longer come back from?


Fifteen Million Merits

This episode depicts a dystopian society where everyone bikes to generate power in order to earn merits, currency used to buy everything from entertainment, food, or a chance to win fame. Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) is a mostly solitary figure who keeps to himself and banks up his credits. One day he falls for a fellow biker named Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay) who he encourages to pursue singing on one of the entertainment shows that plays for the bikers. However, when Abi auditions, she finds herself offered a different fate altogether.

This episode has some deep tonal problems as it shifts from character to character. Each of them lacks any kind of realism as they play more for the themes of the story and donít behave as psychologically believable people. One side-character clearly represents humanity at its worst as heís constantly gorging himself and laughing at the most brain-dead and uninspired bit of entertainment he can buy.

Bing is almost this monastic type who lives in the system of technology but doesnít buy into it. Heís the most virtuous a man can be in this system, but his denial of the system comes across as a platform for indignant self-righteousness, which by the end is simply another commodity in the lineup of ideas from which people are free to have as long as the bikers keep on biking.

And Abi exists to be Bingís weird muse. It's a demeaning and sexist position and for a moment the episode almost seems self-aware enough to usurp the idea, but instead it plays headlong into it and takes it even farther to the point of feeling a bit too exploitative. And as much as the point of the episode is how much everyone here is exploited, no one is portrayed as human enough to make you care.

The Entire History of You

Advances in technology give us the ability to record every moment and that ability results in a need to relive and regurgitate our lives. this episode examines a world in which an implant to record and rewatch anything you see and hear. Suddenly, every intimate moment or awkward exchange is instantly replayable for a talking point at dinner or an attempt to relive the a night of sexual ecstasy. For Liam (Toby Kebbell), he fears his wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) might not be honest about her past and the technology might give him a doorway to the truth.

The best of the opening season, this episode is an excellent balance of character, plot, concept, and theme. Every bit of one folds into the other to allow the episode to never feel as if it teeters too far one way or the other. The moments of interpersonal conflict feed directly into the ability to replay the fight you just had or showing an old memory to catch someone in a lie. Suddenly, the truth can be played back on demand, but the truth may not always be shown in love.

Watching this couple tear at each other through this technology demonstrates that age-old anxieties about lies and infidelity are only compounded by technology that might give us the truth, but cannot give us love, understanding, or forgiveness. To err is human, but the machineís records are cold and easily repeatable, and even easier to misuse in the heat of the moment.

This episode demonstrates what Black Mirror can be at its best: an examination of humanity's flaws and how they can be amplified and exploited through the misuse of technology. As the name of the show implies, the show is a reflection of an audience, but a black one, a dark look at who we are and a glimpse into the future of what we might become if we do not take the lessons of these stories to heart.

Season 2

Be Right Back

Martha (Hayley Atwell) is an artist who lives an unassuming life with Ash (Domhnall Gleeson), a social media obsessed man who has to be pried away from his phone. Ash dies in a tragic traffic accident, leaving Martha distraught, especially after she finds out she is pregnant with his child. To help fill the gap of loneliness, Martha enlists in an AI program that plays on her phone, simulating Ashís voice via his social media profiles and audio conversations. But this isnít enough and Martha finds herself escalating the level of technology until it reaches an uncomfortable level.

Both Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson give fantastic performances here, first as a simple couple and then later as a bizarre woman and her AI. Hayley is able to tap into raw feelings of human grief while also selling the moments of vulnerability that lead the character to make odd decisions. And Domhnall Gleeson gives an unnerving performance as a strong approximation of a human being, but one ultimately lacking the soul and imperfections of a real human being.

Out of all the episodes so far, this one comes the closest of what might actually come to pass. The idea of a service that would try to replicate a lost love one through AI is not that far-fetched and it also taps into how technology can be twisted into something unhealthy. Martha has a true need for connection to help curtail her grief, but uses technology as the wrong outlet for it.

Out of all the episodes, this one feels the most empathetic towards its characters and the least cynical. Martha is put in a horrific situation and the episode never tries to condemn her for turning to technology for comfort, it only examines the deeper pain brought on by the cold detachment technology brings with it.

White Bear

A woman (Lenora Crichlow) wakes up with no memories and finds herself filled in a world with people on their phones who run away from her and do not speak. There are also people hunting her with strange symbols that mimic those seen playing on TVs and cell phone screens. She meets Jem (Tuppence Middleton) who begins to help her and explain that they need to stop a dangerous signal being transmitted at a nearby facility.

This episode hinges a lot on the reveal and once the reveal hits, it all falls flat. Thereís too much mystery and odd questions piled on in the opening minutes that the truth ends up coming across as not so much lazy as not signaled at all in any meaningful way. Itís as if the two halves were two independent ideas that were wrestled together into a frankenstein script that fails to do justice to either concept. Whatís left is the most underdeveloped and lazy episode in the series so far, so much so that over the end credits a bunch of scenes play that exist simply to better explain what happened in the episode.

The Waldo Moment

Jamie Salter (Daniel Rigby) is the voice of Waldo, an animated bear on a late-night TV show who interviews famous people with vulgar questions and mocking lines. As a publicity stunt for his own independent show, the creative team decides to put Waldo on the ballot for a local political campaign despite Jamieís reservations. When Jamie meets Gwendolyn (Chloe Pierre), a real candidate with real ideas, he begins to question both Waldo as a gag as well as the politicians people are voting for.

Perhaps the most cynical and yet most prophetic episode of the series so far, The Waldo Moment encapsulates how the rhetoric of crass bullying and general offensiveness can overwhelm the actual political discourse of substance that attempts to put forward true political thought. And itís also not afraid to show how tired and cynical that political thought is as well.

While set in the UK, this idea when translated to America basically predicts the rise of Trump, a celebrity bully who makes a spectacle of the political landscape. But where Waldo ends up pursuing a more commercial side through political means, the reality of America is that Trump has now created a new political landscape.

Itís odd to call the most cynical episode of Black Mirror the one that in reality didnít take the idea far enough. Granted the high-concept is silly enough, but the tactics of Waldo were all to real in the presidential election of 2016. Only the future will tell if we end up in the same state Jamie does by the end of the episode.

1SO

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #77 on: October 19, 2019, 08:23:21 PM »
Sam, I always like when you take the time for a detailed post like this. It gets me interested to give a fresh look to the episodes I've only seen once. I have a particular interest in reviews of White Bear because most opinions are similar to yours, yet it's my favorite of this batch for exactly what people don't like about it. The mystery and the odd quality of people following the woman with the phones recording video is incredibly creepy, and that reveal hit me like a blow to the head and its surprise is precisely like I love the episode so much. I never even saw those end bits as last minute answers to big questions, it shows the depth of the methodology much like when The Good Place goes behind the scenes of the creation of all that goes into their world.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #78 on: October 20, 2019, 04:43:53 AM »
I went back and read some of the old reviews and it was interesting to see which episodes did and did not land for certain people. I'm glad some episodes work for some people. Even though the show has always felt inconsistent in quality, the debate over the peaks and valleys makes this one of the best shows to talk about from recent years.

1SO

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Re: Black Mirror
« Reply #79 on: October 20, 2019, 10:04:02 AM »
Agree. I like every time new episodes are released, but half of the fun is seeing what others thought of them.
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