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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 4:52 am 
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Watched the first four episodes of season 4 last night and had to force myself to stop at 2am so I can function today. USS Callister is as good as anything in the series and overall I find this the most consistent season. The increased budget since the move to Netflix gives every installment scope and a cinematic feel, every episode has a solid idea at its core and is far better science fiction than what we got at the cinemas this year. When this started out on Channel 4 in the UK I couldn’t get into it due to sometimes flimsy charactertisation, but that has also improved. I cared about the fate of every protagonist here, one way or another.

The USS Callister episode may look like just another Star Trek parody from the trailers but it’s in turn hilarious, chilling and moving. Watch out for
[Reveal] Spoiler:
”Gillian from marketing” ! By the end I found myself cheering the unexpectedly happy conclusion.


In Archangel surveillance technology turns relatable parental anxieties into something monstrous. I did something similar once, but at least it was only to my cat.

Crocodile is my least favourite episode so far due to somewhat far fetched character progression but is still impressive as a chilly mood piece. The final reveal is brilliant.

Hang the DJ is the romantic episode, maybe not quite as heart-wrenching as Be Right Back and San Junipero but still great with genuine chemistry between the two leads which made me root for them. The one thing I miss about the UK since I left, is the type of self-deprecating humor over which the couple bond here.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:06 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:55 pm 
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Very like The Twilight Zone then!


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:07 pm 
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colinr0380 wrote:

Not sure The Twilight Zone ever featured anything like an episode of a prime minister getting blackmailed into having sex with a pig on live TV.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:14 pm 
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Metalhead is the most minimalist episode, it’s basically one long chase sequence, beautifully shot in widescreen b&w. It has less of a big idea behind it than most Black Mirror episodes, but I like how ones understanding of the world it takes place in changes as the episode goes on.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
Initially this appears to be a heist foiled by a “judge and jury security guard robot”, but eventually it transpires that the episode takes place in a post robo-apocalypse akin to The Terminator.
This appears to be the least liked episode of the season but I thought it was still ahead of lesser episodes in previous seasons.

The Black Museum is an anthology within an anthology series like the Christmas special. It’s three tales and a framing story initially struck me like this were several ideas that could have been individual episodes. The end connects all of the stories very satisfyingly though. It’s also the only episode which has callbacks to previous Black Mirror episodes and I wonder whether this is a sort of farewell. I hope not but I can also see Charlie Brooker as being someone keen to move on to new things and leaving this on a high.

In any case, a great season. Unlike with previous seasons there wasn’t a single episode I outright disliked. USS Callister and Hang the DJ were the high points for me.

Looking through rankings and comments of the entire show, I was struck how much disagreement there is on which are the best and worst episodes. There are a couple of firm favorites like San Junipero and Be Right Back, but the rest are up and down on different lists with maybe only The Waldo Moment fron season 2 as the most disliked.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:14 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
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This is pretty accurate.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:22 am 
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No way the show can live up to this comic though


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:57 pm 
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What are everybody's favorite episodes? For me, probably in this order...

1. Fifteen Million Merits
2. Shut Up and Dance / White Christmas
3. White Bear

Merits is fantastic... I feel that its themes are some of the show's finest, and the ending near perfect; great performance from Daniel Kaluuya as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:28 pm 
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I ended up liking Callister the best of this season, with Black Museum or Hang the DJ taking the second slot. Callister had enough time to build up its premise and work through it, even if the apartment break-in was a rushed resolution to things. Metalhead, on the other hand, felt like most of the robots-are-evil apocalypse stories I've seen before. I still have Arkangel to go but I've heard mixed reactions.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:21 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
Consider me an outlier then... I've only seen the last two episodes of season 1, but both were actually really good and used their technological world to interesting effect.
Having now sat down with friends to see season four, I must say I'm deeply disappointed. I've only seen episode 1 & 6 so far, but both are incredibly underwhelming.
USS Callister is the length of a shorter feature film yet we barely dig deep into what the episode is trying to say. Don Hertzfeldt and Chris Marker managed to create brilliant sci-fi worlds in less than an hour yet the world created here is just a typical futuristic world that has been done to death.
And the dramaturgy itself is completely wasted. Why should I care about the lives of fake online characters, even if they have so called feelings? Every story point is completely easy to forsee while the episode at best comments on a gamergate esque world.
Black Museum is slightly better, with actual inventiveness in its three story lines (even if each one reminded me of far better films, Crash and Being John Malkovich) but again ends up saying absolutely nothing in the end, except maybe sort of blaming us for watching this show in the first place (but guess what, Haneke did this twice before, and way better).
Can't comment on this season as compared to the former ones, but I found this incredibly disappointing.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 11:51 am 
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dda1996a wrote:
Consider me an outlier then... I've only seen the last two episodes of season 1, but both were actually really good and used their technological world to interesting effect. ...
Can't comment on this season as compared to the former ones, but I found this incredibly disappointing.


I'd say to give others a shot, especially if you enjoyed Fifteen Million Merits and The Entire History of You. I found USS Callister to be enjoyable, but ultimately too similar to other (more interesting) episodes of the show. White Christmas is close to Black Museum in its three-part anthology structure, but it's a general strong episode among fans, so it's worth a go-around at least once.

The National Anthem and Shut Up and Dance have the least science fiction in them, but still use the featured technology (Anthem in particular) to convey an interesting, grounded message.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:53 pm 
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dda1996a wrote:
Can't comment on this season as compared to the former ones, but I found this incredibly disappointing.

I'm not the biggest fan of the show, although I do enjoy it when it succeeds. I've heard a few friends and critics declare this latest season a disappointment but for me it's largely on par with the seasons that came before - a series of entertaining if shallow stories about a fictional technology's impact on a microcosm of people. While the budget has certainly increased with the show's move to Netflix, Brooker hasn't done much with the increased funds except recruit bigger names. Despite the many raves the show's enjoyed since its inception, I can only enjoy it as a series of morality tales sprinkled with often trite insights into the digital age.

I liked McCallister largely because it wrestles with the concept of virtual beings as independent and cognizant, a philosophical concept that's become rather popular with the rise of video games and one that I find fascinating. It also eschewed the glum tone that nearly every Black Mirror episode dwells in, an aspect of the show that's always felt needlessly forced and at times self-parodying. Black Museum I found mostly forgettable until the final story, which offered a disturbing spin on the commoditization of the US criminal justice system, where a black death row inmate's pain is distilled into a tourist's trinket and exploited for financial gain. But this is a show where YMMV definitely applies and enjoyment varies wildly from one viewer to another (I actually thought 15 Million Merits was the worst episode of the show's run).


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:55 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:14 am
Just to be clear, it's not having Scifi elements that bothered me, it's using what could amount to interesting technological inventions in the least probing way. The idea is interesting but the show does nothing with it.
I also find those two episodes to fail cinematically as well, but that was the least of my issues with it.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 6:47 pm 
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I'm a big fan of the show but didn't much like Callister or Black Museum. Metalhead was easily the best episode of this season, I think, and Hang the DJ is far more interesting than it seems at first glance. Crocodile was superb until the very end.

I'd recommend Be Right Back (from Season 2) and San Junipero (from Season 3) as the best episodes so far. They both benefit from Owen Harris' direction, and feel like very fully realised stories. Same goes for the harrowing White Bear (also Season 2). I agree that some episodes come across as having been rushed and under-cooked at the writing stage, and Arkangel is an unfortunate example of this in the latest season.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:20 am 
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I just started watching Season 4 and I certainly hope the rest of the season is better than USS Callister. What I love about Black Mirror is that the futuristic science and tech is just credible enough to be frightening (or sometimes, as in Season 1 Ep 1, the tech is essentially what we already have now). In this episode, however, the fact that the writers seemed not to care if anything made sense really irritated me. Memories aren’t stored in DNA, for one thing, and the tech of the game was about as realistic as anything in Tron. And yet this episode is getting so many raves—I’m a little befuddled. It was a fun idea, I guess, but... ](*,)


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:44 pm 
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Sloper wrote:
Metalhead was easily the best episode of this season

Yeah, I'm close to agreeing with this, and I just don't get the hate that I've seen for this particular episode. Those Boston Dynamic creatures are just nightmare fuel for me. What it really reminds me of is Spielberg's Duel; both are relatively narrative-free white-knuckled affairs that focus on the tension of the chase. The lack of exposition only lends to the overall terrifying mood. Well, that and the terrific b&w cinematography. The reveal at the end, I thought, was fine given the information we had been provided. I think this one was a real classic, in the same vein as the Twilight Zone episode, The Invaders.

And I really liked everything this season, with the exception of Arkangel, which had a cloudy denouement that sabotaged the ending.

Sloper wrote:
I think Hang the DJ is far more interesting than it seems at first glance.

Completely agree, especially when you realize

[Reveal] Spoiler:
that, out of 1000 "dates" for the couple, we were only shown the 1st, 2nd, and final (1000th) ones.

Typical Black Mirror brilliance.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:05 am 
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StevenJ0001 wrote:
I just started watching Season 4 and I certainly hope the rest of the season is better than USS Callister. What I love about Black Mirror is that the futuristic science and tech is just credible enough to be frightening (or sometimes, as in Season 1 Ep 1, the tech is essentially what we already have now). In this episode, however, the fact that the writers seemed not to care if anything made sense really irritated me. Memories aren’t stored in DNA, for one thing, and the tech of the game was about as realistic as anything in Tron. And yet this episode is getting so many raves—I’m a little befuddled. It was a fun idea, I guess, but... ](*,)
I agree. Another good thing about the show is the way it keeps experimenting with different genres. So, for instance, I didn't have a problem with some of the implausibilities in Hated in the Nation, because they made sense within the conventions of a detective show (which Charlie Brooker has parodied brilliantly in A Touch of Cloth). With USS Callister, they were consciously trying to do a Black Mirror version of the 'summer blockbuster', and some of the stuff in this episode is so outlandishly stupid that it must be a self-conscious 'aping' of blockbuster stupidity.

That said, it seems like it would have been pretty easy to invent something more plausible than the DNA gizmo you mention, like a wireless version of the little flashing dots they put on people's temples, tapping into the Z-eyes that everyone in this world has evidently had installed. It would make sense that you could play Infinity wirelessly, without having to fish around for your own personalised flashing dot... And many of the plot turns are clearly dictated by what the writers want to happen, or what they assume the audience will want to happen, rather than what would actually make sense - the internal logic of the whole thing is extremely shaky. So I enjoyed the episode, and can see why so many people like it, but I wish they could have toned down the dumbness a little bit - perhaps made it Jurassic Park-level silly, rather than Transformers-level... I had a few other problems with this one, especially with the ending, but I need to watch it again before getting into that.

Back to Metalhead:
Quot wrote:
Those Boston Dynamic creatures are just nightmare fuel for me. What it really reminds me of is Spielberg's Duel; both are relatively narrative-free white-knuckled affairs that focus on the tension of the chase. The lack of exposition only lends to the overall terrifying mood. Well, that and the terrific b&w cinematography.
Absolutely. It's also heavily reminiscent of Westworld (the film; I haven't seen the TV series yet), with the lone hero stalked through a blasted wilderness by a relentless killing machine - and the climax of course owes a lot to that film.

With regard to the ending:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I had read a comment in a review saying that the final shot was so saccharine that it spoilt the whole episode, so I was braced to be very disappointed - but I actually found it really moving, and not at all overplayed. It makes you suddenly realise just how low these people had sunk. When they said the boiled sweets were all they had left, they really meant it; they were hoping to find batteries in the warehouse, but not food, so it seems like they'd pretty much resigned themselves to not surviving, and were only trying to make their last few days a little more bearable. You can see it as sentimental that the whole mission was dedicated to finding a replacement teddy bear for a mortally wounded child, and some reviewers seem to read this as an indication of the human irrationality that will cause us to be wiped out by the robots when the time comes. But I liked that, for once, this show plumped for human kindness and empathy at the end of an episode: although Metalhead is phenomenally bleak, and seems to picture the end of the world (because the silent radio at the end presumably indicates that the dogs have killed everyone back at the home base), it's actually the most straightforwardly life-affirming, pro-humanity episode of Black Mirror so far, even more so than the ambiguous San Junipero.
Interesting comment about Hang the DJ. I like that idea, and I've seen someone else suggest it online, but I'm not sure it's right:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
In an interview, Charlie Brooker said that in the two non-rebellious simulations, Frank and Amy would just stop existing and the simulation would end. However, Brooker isn't always the most reliable commentator on his own work, and we don't have to let him tell us how to read the episode - for example, I don't think the ending is nearly as happy or hopeful as he suggests in that interview, and there are lots of dark implications behind it. But I guess it might be expecting a bit much from the simulated Amys and Franks to think that they might rebel against the System in order to be together after their first date, having only been hooked up for 12 hours. So I do think it must be 1000 simulations of the whole years-long dating process, rather than 1000 dates. Still, I love how many un-answered questions the episode leaves you with - you could speculate endlessly about what's really going on here, which I think is a hallmark of good 'speculative' fiction.
I'll also take this opportunity to re-post a link to Mallory Ortberg's very funny parody from a couple of years ago, and this one from the New Yorker. One highlight from the latter:
Quote:
PATRICK: Empathy.

ED: Handheld devices.

PATRICK: Empathy.

ED: Handheld devices.

PATRICK: Handheld devices?

ED: Handheld devices.

PATRICK: Handheld devices.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mirror
PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:34 pm 
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I've finally decided to get into Black Mirror, and these are my thoughts on what I've watched so far. Spoilers Abound


The National Anthem: Harrowing, yes; its triumph lies in taking a crude, jokey premise and not only wringing horror from it, but making the reality of it persuasive. The minor idea behind the premise, that the immediacy of public consumption and reaction in the age of social media could conceivably result in the prime minister being intimidated into fucking a pig on live television is persuasive and riveting. The major idea behind the episode is, by contrast, a let-down for its banality and unimaginativeness. That the desire of the public to experience another's humiliation on a screen is so compelling that they'll fail to notice the original situation (the kidnapping) that had outraged them into demanding the humiliation had been resolved well before hand--well, I don't doubt the truth behind this critique of media culture, but it's almost as old as television itself. It's a predictable and old fashioned critique, the narrative equivalent of calling your tv the 'boob-tube'. That this is what's meant to justify the provocations of the ugly scenario is disappointing and gives the impression that the provocations are the point, with the message there to deflect from that.

Fifteen Million Merits: A boring, overlong episode whose critiques and conclusions are precisely what you'd expect given the targets. I found it hard to believe in its world, too: the government has enough power to track everyone digitally and enforce a lot of restrictions, but nevertheless has to resort to fostering shame and hatred, rather than restricted diets, to keep people fit and cycling. If your world depends on the populace being fit enough to produce electricity manually, it makes more sense to monitor daily calorie intakes than turn fat people into the villains in the hopes that it'll motive the populace (with the overeating cycle being common enough for a character to recommend CBT for overcoming it). But then I'm only talking about this minor, inconsequential bit because I'm too bored to talk about the rest. Thus far in my viewings I did not have much faith in Black Mirror. Its media critiques have been largely uninteresting bromides.

The Entire History of You: Here, finally, the show comes to life, and the major reason for that is the decision not to allow its futuristic premise to be a thudding critique, but rather a narrative device to open up and explore common emotional situations, here the intersection of jealousy and memory. Using implant technology to dramatize the obsessive, paranoid focus of the jealous person on tiny details that may mean nothing or everything is brilliant in how it evokes so vividly the pure experience of jealousy. Generally, film and tv suggests the internal state of jealousy through external displays; here, technology renders the internal external, so we get complete access to a purely emotional state without needing, say, experimental visual techniques. We can watch someone in the process of remembering, interpreting, focusing, reconfiguring, over and over. And the episode plays subtly with its irony, too. It's only in a throw-away line within a dramatic scene of far more charged exchanges that you realize that, while the husband was right to've suspected his wife, his jealousy earlier in their marriage had created the conditions that allowed for the cheating to take place--jealousy as self-fulfilling prophecy, especially in a society that can scrutinize everything. There are many insidious little things to this one that are hinted at, but I'm glad they remained hints in favour of a story focused on character and emotion. Finally, I'm excited for more Black Mirror




Be Right Back: The predictability of this episode allows it to be tragic rather than underwhelming. We know what's going to happen when the technology is introduced to the narrative (and if we've been paying close attention, know what its final manifestation will be), and we can only watch in helpless concern as our lead is pulled into an emotional trap we all see coming. The narrative hinges, eventually, on the uncanny valley; but as with the previous episode, this is an avenue into character and emotion rather than something more conceptual. There are plenty of themes about technology and modernity to be drawn out of this one, many of them no doubt quite complex; but what lingers is the sheer torment of grief and how people caught within it can so willingly mistake crutches for a cure.

White Bear: Successfully conjures the atmosphere of a nightmare, replete with unmoved bystanders and frightening, motiveless threats materializing out of nowhere. Its satire, tho', has almost nothing to do with modernity or technology. True, the public desire to participate in retribution is melded to its desire to be a spectator to it, and this results in everyone holding a camera and in that old sci-fi stand-by, the futuristic theme park that ends up revealing contemporary ills. But the presence of recording devices and tvs is the result of incidental narrative beats. That the killer videotaped the little girl's torments and now, in Twilight Zone-style irony, has her own torment endlessly filmed could easily have been anything else. There's nothing essential to the use of technology here, because what's critiqued is something that predates the industrial revolution. It's the old phenomenon of public executions, replete with the prisoner being driven through town in an open wagon for everyone to jeer at. And as far as judicial public humiliations represented on dramatic tv go, Game of Thrones bests this one easily, and with a more vividly horrible character at its pitiful centre. But that's not to take away from the effectiveness of this episode, which, before the reveal, was propulsive and horrifying, and after it makes you feel pity for its criminal (even if it does stack the deck in her favour).

The Waldo Moment: The weakest episode of season 2, mainly for how it just kind of ends right as it's getting interesting. An unhappy mediocrity gets caught up in something far beyond him, but opts out just as all the horrifying stuff seems about to happen. I was hoping to see our protagonist strong-armed by American organizations looking to use his destabilizing alter-ego to manipulate the democratic process, or at least for him to become caught up in his own sudden power and the thrill of a demagoguery he didn't know was in him. The episode suggested all sorts of truly concerning and relevant political nightmares, and yet failed to deliver on them. Unlike the best of the previous episodes, which used their conceits to study character and emotion, this one ought to've been more conceptual.


So, yeah, I enjoyed these first two seasons very much, despite the occasional lull. I'll write up my thoughts on the Christmas special and the Netflix seasons when I get around to seeing them.


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