Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – “White Christmas” Series 3 Christmas Special

To be honest guys, I am completely sick of all the horrible festive advertising that is being plastered over my eyes every time I leave the house, turn on the TV or open my laptop. Like Russell Brand has quite vocally expressed, I am appalled at the content of the most recent Sainsbury’s advert. I have been feeling a little bit “Grinchy” this year since I am already half-way through my overdraft and enjoying the broke-ass feeling well before the big day. Which is why I really loved that the latest offering by Charlie Brooker was so refreshingly dark and sinister for a seasonal special.

Jon Hamm as Matt in Black Mirror: White Christmas ... along with the razor-ship wit, a very human stAs I’ve been following this series from the beginning, I will continue to outline the synopsis without giving away any major plot lines. Since Black Mirror has now been added to Netflix, it’s no surprise that our American friends have been watching too! I don’t usually watch TV but I tuned in for this. This episode has a transatlantic cast and features the incredibly handsome and witty Hollywood star, John Hamm (Mad Men…etc) and of course, Rafe Spall who has appeared in previous Black Mirror episodes.

This is a world where everyone has been installed with a series of digital implants in the eyes and brain and is also possible to make a copy of an individual and store the data as software in a little box called a cookie. In Brooker’s dystopian version of the near future, it is also possible to block people as you would on Facebook except that you completely cut off contact with the individual. As in they, effectively, disappear from your life. You can’t hear or see them, they even disappear from photographs.

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The episode starts with two divorced men stuck working in an arctic outpost at Christmas. John Hamm’s character, a disgraced relationship guru tells Rafe Spall the story of his last and late client. He gives shy men real-time pick up advice through the chip in his brain. It is revealed that he witnessed the murder of his client and as a result, his wife blocked and left him. Both characters have dark secrets to hide and is revealed slowly throughout the show.

I won’t reveal anymore about what happens in the episode. I completely guessed the ending by Part 3 which made it a tad predictable but it raises some important points from a “technophobic” perspective. It seems to paint a negative picture of a more connected society and doesn’t show any positive outcomes to having this technology. I suppose when high technology meets with human needs and desires, it can only end up with people using it for their own means.

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The Last Unicorn – A new discovery

I recently ordered an excellent book online called “Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture”. On it’s recommendation, I dutifully googled “The Last Unicorn” written by Peter S. Beagle in 1968. It is considered an american classic and is commonly found on bookshelves next to Black Beauty and others in the pony book fiction genre. Don’t be turned off yet! The story itself is so stunning – the spiritual successor to Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, mix that all up with fantasy, romance and adventure. It’s my new favourite thing.

I started listening to the audio book online but couldn’t find a complete version. I stumbled onto a full-feature length animated movie that was created around the book in 1982. The artwork and animation is beautiful – I loved the music apart from a few songs that were a little cringey. I couldn’t ignore it, I’m sorry.

I’ll just provide a synopsis without giving away any major plot lines or spoilers. The unicorn is the protagonist of the story and when she learns from a magical talking butterfly that she might be the last of her kind, she leaves the safety of her enchanted forest home in search of others of her kind. On her journey she meets a magician called Schmendrick that agrees to help her on her quest.

After watching the movie, I really wish that I had read the book before I had seen it. I started getting so reeled in from the narration, I had to buy it so I could read it myself. Really looking forward to when it arrives! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy watching this. It’s still worth a watch if you’ve run out of things to do.

Murdered By My Boyfriend – BBC Three

The programme that I watched last week was based on a true story about a 21-year old girl named Ashley (not her real name) who was murdered by her long term boyfriend and father of her child, Reece (again, not his real name)

Murdered by my Boyfriend

A story of a young woman living with her violent partner

It starts off as a typical love story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and move in together but it isn’t long before Reece starts to try and take over every part of Ashley’s life. On the outside, she’s happy and smiling and taking selfies with her friends on nights out but it is clear that after 3 years of being in a relationship, he has a absolute and total control over her and beats her savagely every time she tries to take a stand. A particular line stood out to me in one of Ashley’s inner monologues:

“There were times we felt like a normal family but that was an illusion. I could only be happy if he wanted me to be happy”

Typically, Reece kept Ashley pregnant and vulnerable so that she almost had no choice but to stay with him. At one point, Reece bursts into the boutique that Ashley is working at, drags her into a changing room and proceeds to beat the shit out of her. It is hard to imagine staying with someone after this incident but unfortunately, this is where Ashley makes a fatal mistake and Reece manipulates her into taking him back for the last time by proposing to her – and what is a prisoner without hope?

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Reece the Baby daddy – Evil sonofabitch

Reece, ticks all the boxes to label him a sociopath. According to Dr Sheila Wilson, who has helped victims of psychopaths:

Psychopaths exhibit a Jekyll and Hyde personality. They play a part so they can get what they want, The guy who showers a woman with excessive attention is much more capable of getting her to lend him money, and to put up with him when he strays. The new employee who gains her co-workers’ trust has more access to their chequebooks. And so on. Psychopaths have no conscience and their only goal is self-gratification. Many of us have been their victims — at work, through friendships or relationships — and not one of us can say, “a psychopath could never fool me.

In a jealous rage, Reece turns on Ashley when she admits that she has slept with someone else while they were on a break. The closing scene shows Ashley being beaten to death with her 3 year old daughter walking in half way through. Reece picks her up, takes her to her room then returns to smash her head in with the ironing board.

It is scary to think that this is all too common a story and that a woman is more likely to be killed by a partner or former partner than a stranger. Approximately One in three women will suffer abuse in their lifetime and over 4000 will lose their lives as a result of it. Ashley lay dying for 2 hours before the ambulance was called but it took 4 years of mental and physical torture to kill the person that was inside of her body. To the point where staying with her abuser was less scary than facing the world alone.

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This hour long drama also touches on other issues such as the actions of the people around her. Reece stripped away all of Ashley’s friends so that she felt totally alone. Family and friends felt that they had no place getting involved and even though alarm bells were ringing when police were called to the house, they failed to arrest the man that was clearly abusing this woman. Friends thought they were being helpful by suggesting that “arguments in relationships were normal” and that they were probably “passionate people” but all they were doing is normalising his behaviour rather than recognising the signs and then doing something about it

Many people failed Ashley in her short and painful life. I think that women can try and avoid falling into these damaging relationships by nipping things in the bud as soon as things start to go sour. If anyone raises their hand to you, it is a sign that they do not know how to communicate their feelings in a normal way and you will save yourself a lot of pain by not dating psychopaths in the first place. Finally, be the friend that Ashley never had. Say something. Do something. Save someone’s life.

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – “The Waldo Moment” Series 2 Episode 3 – Season Finale

Sam Parker: Black Mirror: ‘The Waldo Moment’ (REVIEW).

The review above is an excellent write up and I don’t think I can even try and write as eloquently as Sam Parker. It is pretty much exactly what I thought of this week’s episode so check it out. I was amused to see that it received mixed reviews on Twitter where fans of the show thought that it was a bit boring compared to the other episodes in Series 2.

I think it was partly to do with the fact that “The Waldo Moment” wasn’t warning us of the dangers of technology and having crazy axe-murderers chasing after our main character. I actually thought it was one of the most accurate and most compelling episodes in the series to date.

This week’s episode is about a blue cartoon bear called Waldo who becomes an unlikely candidate in a local by-election after insulting a Tory politician on national TV. I would say that Waldo could be compared to Sascha Baron Cohen’s character, Ali G who would interview and insult real life politicians on a chat show. The public fall in love with Waldo and his anti-politics attitude and start to vote for him.

Sam Parker explains it best: “Problems arise when Waldo’s creator, a failed comedian called Jamie, grows embarrassed and ashamed as his joke gets out of control and he finds himself in a position of genuine influence. In a line straight from Brooker’s heart he despairs: “I’m neither stupid or clever enough to be in politics”. But like Victor Frankenstein, Jamie is too late: his creation is too powerful, and lives on without him.”

I think that in the UK, people are feeling a bit fed up with politicians. After the expenses scandal and other nonsense, it is becoming harder and harder to trust these privileged people who lie and cheat their way into power. There is a definite desire for more honest communication from politicians. Yet, however crappy the government is “they still built these roads”.

Yet the reason why Waldo becomes so popular in this week’s episode is for just that reason. He insults politicians, he doesn’t give a shit – Exactly the attitude of our generation. It gave the option for people who didn’t care about politics, to vote for Waldo instead.

Either way, I’m not going to try and write up the episode properly since it has already been done, so please do check out the article and watch the episode if you haven’t seen it already!

Django Unchained – One of Tarantino’s best so far [SPOILERS]

I’m not a huge fan of 1960s Spaghetti westerns on the whole. I mean, if somebody sat me down and forced me to watch it I wouldn’t be unhappy but as a genre, it never really appealed to me. I think in general, I don’t really like films with a lot of gratuitous violence and war films bore me to death. Too many explosions, too much fighting and blood.

Having said all of that, I think that Django Unchained is possibly one of the best films I’ve seen in a long long time. I know, I’m a little late jumping on this blogging band wagon about Django because the rest of the blogisphere seem to just be losing their shit about this film!

In a nutshell, this is basically another revenge film. Jamie Foxx plays the main character called Django who is a freed slave on a mission to save his wife who has been taken to Mississipi to work on the infamous Candyland plantation. In the opening scene, our hero is freed by Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter, who needs Django’s help in identifying 3 men he is trying to kill. After hearing of his plight, Dr. Schultz agrees to help Django rescue his wife, Broomhilde. Under the pretense of buying a Mandango fighter, Dr. Schultz and Django make their way to Candyland where they meet the evil Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio), lord and master of the notorious plantation. Samuel L Jackson’s portrayal of Calvin Candie’s right hand man, is absolutely perfect; the most terrifying Uncle Tom you could ever hope to meet. Of course, when Django and Dr. Schultz’s cover is blown, a hellish blood bath ensues.

I think everybody when watching any Tarantino film will just have to accept that it is not historically accurate. I don’t think the point of the movie was to spout facts at the audience while trying to simply re-create an environment. Tarantino produces works of art so of course its going to look and feel infinitely more stylish and Hollywood. At the same time, Tarantino was careful to highlight the realities of the pre civil-war era which meant that some scenes were almost unbearable to watch because horrific things did happen to those poor slaves.

I think, for me personally anyway, the script and the acting was incredible. I’ve always been a fan of the monologue and I find Tarantino’s prose absolutely mesmerising. I especially liked the character of Dr. Schultz because he is such a “nice” man.

A lot of people commented on the use of the word “nigger” throughout the film. Some people said they thought it was unnecessary, some thought it really added to the general unease regarding the subject of the film. Personally, I think that any person who thinks they can just throw the word so carelessly around like that is a bit of an idiot but at the same time, I hate the fact that the world is so obsessed with political correctness that even words that come out of actor’s mouths are judged with the same disdain as if you or I had uttered it. I think, ultimately, if they had halved the amount of times they say the word in the film, it wouldn’t have affected the quality much. To be honest, I don’t know if its bad or not, but I didn’t give that much thought to it at all when I walked out the cinema but it seems to be a hot topic at the moment.

The ONLY criticism about the movie is the Broomhilde character. She really doesn’t do much except…look alluring in a lake in Django’s imagination and speak a bit of German to Dr. Schultz. I would have liked to have seen a strong female lead character, especially in a film about the slave trade. It seemed a bit of an anti-climax when I realised that she was, essentially, more of a symbolic goal than a hugely important part of Django’s life. This made her a bit of a two-dimensional character. I actually found her story really interesting

Apart from that, there is LOADS of violence, LOADS of action, really great characters played by brilliant actors. After we all walked out of the cinema, the film sparked a debate that lasted well into the night.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts on the film! I hope I didn’t give too much away, please comment. Hopefully, I can successfully get a debate going!

Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – “White Bear” Series 2 Episode 2

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This week’s episode was completely different from the last one. It pulls away from any emotional and romantic themes to something more dark, tense and surreal in the only way that Charlie Brooker can.

The story revolves around a woman called “Victoria” (Lenora Crichlow) who wakes up inside a house with no memory of who she was. When she finally ventures out of the house, she finds that everyone around her is filming her every move. She discovers that she is being chased by a group of scary masked people called “The Hunters” wielding shot guns and electric saws and manages to escape their clutches with the help of a young rebel (Tuppence Middleton). It turns out, a signal was sent out to every TV and Smartphone which turned everyone in Britain into a mindless zombie. Not the brain eating kind – all they are able to do is mindlessly film stuff on their phones. They need to make their way to the “White Bear” control tower to wipe out the transmitter that is making everyone turn into “onlookers”.

Then, the plot is turned completely on it’s head as we discover that everything that Victoria went through was a lie. Her entire experience was filmed as part of a TV show as her surroundings fold away to reveal a jeering studio audience. At this point, it seems as though Victoria has been part of a “Derren Brown’s – Apocolypse” style experiment of some sort but we find out that she was an accomplice in the brutal murder of a little girl.

The entire TV show is based around a justice programme that Victoria is part of where she is subjected to physical and psychological torture by being thrown repeatedly into apocalyptic style situations as punishment for her actions and, of course, for the public’s viewing pleasure. Think of “White Bear Justice Park” as a wildlife safari where you can take pictures and film the mental torture of a criminal.

This episode asks many questions. Victoria’s crime was that she was an accomplice in the murder of the little girl. Her fiance had tortured and killed her while Victoria stood by and filmed the whole thing. Is Brooker possibly suggesting that people that stand by and do nothing are just as guilty as the people that carry out the crime?

Of course, Brooker addresses the issue of human rights and morality in each episode. Did Victoria’s punishment fit her crime? Yes, I think so. Was it wrong to make a glossy, packaged show out of it? Probably. Do we feel any empathy for Victoria? I did, purely because everything that happened to her was completely horrific, whether or not she was a criminal. We go on this journey with her without knowing anything about her and feel completely empathetic yet, are we really so fickle that we can still change our minds in an instant?

The most important thing that I took away from this episode was that how any sympathy goes out the window when the character in question is reduced to an image on the TV screen. We live in a world where everyone enjoys watching people being humiliated for entertainment. I also think this episode echoes the sort of real life witch-hunts (eg. Ian Brady & Myra Hindley) and how hysterical red-top newspaper headlines can capture and alter the opinions of an entire nation.

Black Mirror on Channel 4 video: Charlie Brooker’s ‘White Bear’ is another work of dark and twisted genius – Jane Simon – Mirror Online

Black Mirror on Channel 4 video: Charlie Brooker’s ‘White Bear’ is another work of dark and twisted genius – Jane Simon – Mirror Online.

This was the only article I could find that didn’t give away too much of the story! I promise to do a post about it at some point tomorrow because I really enjoyed it! I think I liked it more than the first episode!

I’m finding it rather hard not to rave about this series to people that aren’t really following it. I’m serious! Get on it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.