The Netflix Chronicles: Black Mirror (Season 3)

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Writer’s note:  For those of you that have not read our previous piece on the series ‘Black Mirror’ you can do so by clicking here.  This piece talks more about the show as a whole and gives an entry point into watching the series.

To pick up where we left off last, the first episode of the new season of ‘Black Mirror’ entitled ‘Nosedive’ immediately re-establishes the tone set by the previous two seasons and Christmas special.  Using a bit of a despondent score and a sanitized color aesthetic immediately you are reminded that we are being showed a view of our possible future.  One of the differences of this episode from previous episodes is how bright and cheery it is, as well as its use of sanitized language.  However as the show continues it becomes obvious that the cheeriness is a possible wink to dedicated viewers who know things will only continue to fall apart.  While the first episode of season three boasts the only real “happy” ending seen on this series as the season continues the show continues to shine.

A few words about ‘Black Mirror’ (Season 3):

  1. Satirized technology – In many episodes of this season the way technology is used is greatly advanced.  This show very much plays with the “what if” factor with regards to where technology is going.  Questions like “What if the entire windshield of a car were used as a screen?”  to “What if NFC technology were standard in all business transactions?”.  This is done effectively because most times no attention is drawn to the advance in technology itself, but rather these portions are spinkled into the show like seasoning for the viewer to enjoy.
  2. Continues to cover the trajectory of technology -The majority of the episodes of this season cover where technology is going.  This is done through using “satirized technology” as well as playing with ideas of our interactions with each other changing based on technology.  This is enjoyable because at first glance you can view an episode and think to yourself “This would never happen”, but after continuing to watch will change to the thought of “Isn’t this already happening?”.  Black Mirror does an excellent job of asking the question “How far is too far?”
  3. Covers current theories about technology and human interaction – As stated before, the question of “Isn’t this happening already” is understated in some episodes however in a few episodes it is the main question.  These could be considered to be the allegorical or metaphorical episodes.  These episodes do a good job of providing commentary to our current state by telling us a cautionary tale.  A good example of this being effectively done are in the episodes of “Shut up and Dance” and “Hated by the nation”
  4. Stays consistent with the tone of the rest of the series – With the exception of “Nosedive” (and as far as the spirit of the show even “Nosedive” meets this mark) the tone of the show is still dark and unsettling.  Everything from the aesthetics to scoring to ideas, while this show is easily binged watched, the ideas of the show will leave a lasting impression on you.  A combination of thinking through these ideas while processing what is on the screen will definitely leave you feeling a certain way.  For dedicated viewers this will be something easily done and in most cases enjoyable.  However getting used to the dark tone of this show for new viewers may take some adjusting.  Unsettled, is the best description of feelings after watching even the brightest episode of this season.
  5. Experiments with multiple genres – Season 3 does a better job of experimenting with different genres of television and film.  This is done while masterfully remaining the same show.  You will travel through multiple genres including horror, romance, and even police procedural (esque) episodes all while still hitting the points stated above.  Above all the tone remains the same, which is remarkable when considering that it legitimately is crossing genres.
  6. Diverse casting – Race and gender in casting are not an issue in this season (nor was it ever in this show)  People are placed in the roles that are best for them and the viewer has no need to be concerned with their race or gender.  This is also the case for leads in each episode.  To be clear, 2 of the 6 episodes have white men lead characters.  3 of the 6 episodes have women lead characters.  2 of the 6 episodes have black lead characters.  This is done without a shoehorn and gives the show a very relate able feel across the board.
  7. Immersive world building – Each episode is a world unto itself.  Each world is built so effectively that a whole season could be built around each premise.  This is not unique to season three, however it is on great display in this season.  The ideas are bigger than the vehicles themselves and because of this, the stakes of each episode feel real and weighty.  This allows for you to be completely immersed in one episode, then end the episode and completely immerse yourself in another episode.  There is no inherent need to watch the episodes in order, however I believe they were set up in the order they are in an extremely effective manner, and I would recommend watching them in the order presented on Netflix.
  8. Boiler plate boxes checked (great acting, great direction, great writing) – Without saying, direction, writing, and acting are impeccable on this show.  It would be difficult to go through each episode to pinpoint some favorite moments.  However for each episode to only have about one hour to establish characters, plot, and story it is done without feeling rushed or like an afterthought.

Black Mirror season three continues to be Netflix at its best.  It is an underrated show that not everyone will enjoy because it is about way more than what you are being shown on the surface.  I strongly encourage all of you to begin with season 1 as a means of getting the tone and direction the show intends to take.  This is not a show for your kids, at all, not even a little, do not let them watch.  4.75 of 5 stars.  (note this is an increase from 4.5 from the original Black Mirror post)

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The Netflix Chronicles: 13th

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There is a documentary on Netflix by Ava DuVernay about the shift from slavery to prison for black folks in the United States called ’13th’.  I am not going to rate this film but rather just mention a few reflections from watching the film.

A few words on 13th:

1. The history of black people in this country continues to have the ability to be traced directly back to slavery.

2.  The inability of people to admit that the history of this country and the thought processes of both white and black people perpetuates an issue commonly thought as “solved” or to have “ended”

3.  This country still profits off of slave labor, but the slaves are now classified as criminals, which makes it easier for most folks to stomach.

4.  Criminal, nigger, slave, and black person for the most part are pretty much synonymous.

5.  As long as it is profitable for black folks to remain in prison, policies will be implemented to keep them there.

6.  Kalief Browder is one of the most important martyrs of our age, and I never heard of him before this movie.

7.  Being released from prison, does not actually release you, from prison.

I encourage everyone to watch this documentary.  It was extremely informative.

The Netflix Chronicles: Time Lapse

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Typically Netflix is the perfect place to binge watch a television show.  However it is also a fine place to stumble across hidden gems.  Movie distribution has changed in this era of film making and while cream rises to the top in terms of the best movies being distributed by the traditional methods, streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are making room for all types of movies to be consumed by the masses.  Enter this independent film, which falls into the nontraditional distribution method category.  ‘Time Lapse’ is a film about three roommates who discover a method to view a snapshot of their lives 24 hours in the future.  As the film begins, the most obvious of “what would you do if knew the future?” questions are immediately answered.  However as the film continues it becomes all about decisions these characters are making because of their knowledge.  It is a slow burn thriller.

A few words about ‘Time Lapse’:

  1.  Understated acting – There are no real familiar faces in this film, which lends to its authenticity.  Here are three young people in a pretty baffling situation and their reactions seem to be pretty believable.  Watching the film a second time lends itself to really take note of the acting choices, which are important to the film’s conclusion.  It was the second viewing that really allowed the subtly of these choices to shine.
  2. Really solid premise – This is film based on time travel.  That being said, there is no actual travel in the movie.  It rather explores decisions people make when they have a peek into their future.  This allows for some pretty intense questions that the movie attempts to answer.
  3. Excellent deliberate pacing – This movie unfolds at a pace commiserate with the decisions the characters are making.  While at times the pace is slow and steady, even when the pace quickens it’s only enough to drive home the larger point or to further highlight the decisions the characters are making.  The movie at its “slowest” never feels slow because the viewer is waiting for the next decision to be made.
  4. Satisfying conclusion – Movies based in time travel, or time viewing have a tendency to fizzle out toward the end, unraveling and/or imploding on themselves.  This movie does not do that.  This writer in particular finished the movie than walked around his apartment wit his hands on his head saying “ahhhhhhhhahahahahahahaha”.  While this is not the typical descriptive language used to convey an ending, the point gleaned here should be that this movie follows its own time travel rules and concludes its story as it should.  This was enough to make the journey that much more enjoyable.

This is solid movie, especially for it not to be on anyone’s radar.  Before stumbling across it on Netflix, the writer cannot be certain that he would have even viewed this movie.  This is why it pays to rate everything you watch on Netflix.  This is a good, stay in and try to ride out hurricane matthew film.  Put the kids to bed first, as this isn’t particularly a gory or graphic movie however is some spurts of strong language and very adult themes.  4 of 5 stars.